US Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Libya, Pentagon Says

Libyan followers of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades and other Islamic militias, hold a demonstration against a film and a cartoon denigrating the Prophet Muhammad in Benghazi, Libya.

A U.S. airstrike in Libya has killed the top Islamic State leader in the country, the Defense Department announced.

The Nov. 13 strike targeted Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national, longtime al-Qaeda operative and the senior leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, also known as ISIL, in Libya, according to a statement released Saturday from the Pentagon.

“Reporting suggests he may also have been the spokesman in the February 2015 Coptic Christian execution video,” it states. “Nabil's death will degrade ISIL's ability to meet the group's objectives in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States.”

The Pentagon said the mission marked the first U.S. strike against an Islamic State leader in Libya, though not the first mission against terrorists in the country. “It demonstrates we will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,” according to the statement.

“We will provide additional information as and when appropriate,” it states. “This operation was authorized and initiated prior to the terrorist attack in Paris.”

At least 128 people were confirmed dead in multiple terrorist attacks on Friday in the French capital -- the worst violence seen in the country since World War II. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The U.S. military on Friday said it was "reasonably certain" that an MQ-9 Reaper drone firing an AGM-114 Hellfire missile killed the London-raised ISIS executioner and propagandist known as "Jihadi John."

Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen dubbed "Jihadi John" for his narration of and participation in Islamic State execution videos, was believed to have been the individual who was targeted as he left a building Thursday night and entered a vehicle in the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqaa in northeastern Syria.

The Hellfire missile hit the vehicle and killed Emwazi and another person believed to have been a friend or a driver for Emwazi, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

--Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com.

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