A U.S. air attack killed dozens of militants in Libya on Friday, marking an escalation in the American campaign against the Islamic State as the militant group expands its reach from North Africa to Central Asia.
U.S. and regional officials said that U.S. F-15 fighter jets struck a suspected Islamic State camp on the outskirts of Sabratha, a restive city in western Libya, killing at least 40 people in an early-morning attack that targeted senior militant Noureddine Chouchane.
The Pentagon said Chouchane, suspected of overseeing attacks on Western tourists in neighboring Tunisia, was probably killed in the air raid, but officials cautioned that they had not yet reached a conclusive determination.
The strike comes as the Obama administration considers more-sustained military action against the Islamic State in Libya, seen as the group’s most potent affiliate outside Iraq and Syria. Strung out in several cells across the country, the group’s Libya branch is small but growing and has already gained a reputation for brutality and ambitious attacks.
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Friday’s strike did not signal the start of a continuous, large-scale campaign, similar to the one that has unfolded since 2014 in Iraq and Syria. The United States and its allies strike multiple Islamic State targets in those countries on a daily basis. Libya, they said, may witness a noticeable uptick in operations from the occasional actions of the recent past.
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