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Top ISIS Target Killed In Libya Airstrike, Pentagon Officials Say

| by Nik Bonopartis
Abu Nabil is pictured here masked in a video showing the execution of Christians. The image at the top right shows the ISIS leader unmasked.Abu Nabil is pictured here masked in a video showing the execution of Christians. The image at the top right shows the ISIS leader unmasked.

ISIS's highest-ranking leader in Libya was killed by a pair of American F-15 Eagles, which struck his compound hours before the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

The timing of the kill was coincidental, with American leaders authorizing the airstrike after receiving information about the location of Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, the BBC reports.

Nabil was described as a former al Qaeda operative who was sent to Libya to expand the Islamic State's operations in the region. He was hiding in a militant stronghold in eastern Libya when he was killed, The Washington Post reported.

Authorities also believe Nabil was one of the masked men who appeared in an ISIS video showing the murders of Coptic Christians in February, according to the Independent. In that video, ISIS warns it will continue targeting “people of the cross." The gruesome video shows ISIS members marching the 21 captives onto a beach before beheading them.

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Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Nabil's death is a setback for ISIS.

"Nabil’s death will degrade [ISIS]’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Libya, including recruiting new [ISIS] members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States," Cook said in a statement, according to the Independent.

Pentagon officials said the Libyan branch of ISIS was among the strongest outside of the group's main territory in Syria and Iraq. ISIS was one of several groups attempting to fill the power vacuum left by deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in 2011. Officials have described the country as "lawless" and said ISIS had made gains and was trying to consolidate power in the African country, which borders Egypt.

“While not the first U.S. strike against terrorists in Libya, this is the first U.S. strike against an [ISIS] leader in Libya, and it demonstrates we will go after [ISIS] leaders wherever they operate,” Cook said.

Sources: Washington Post (2), The Independent, BBC / Photo credit: Daily Mail