A U.S. airstrike against ISIS militants in western Libya killed at least 40 people, including a man linked to two attacks against Western tourists in Tunisia in 2015.
The strike targeted a training camp in Sabratha, a town 50 miles west of Tripoli, and was aimed towards Tunisian militant Noureddine Chouchane, according to The New York Times.
The Pentagon reported that Chouchane, a militant commander who participated in planning attacks in Tunisia that killed 22 people in March 2015 and 38 people in June 2015, was most likely killed in the attack. Forty others were also killed and at least six were wounded, according to Reuters.
Chouchane helped bring ISIS recruits to Libya, according to a statement by the Pentagon. The extremist group, based in Syria and Iraq, has been expanding throughout the Middle East, and uses its expanding territory in Libya to attack other areas in the region.
The Islamic State has gained control of 150 miles of coastline in the country, and attacked valuable oil facilities that account for the majority of Libya's wealth, The New York Times reports.
“The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars of oil revenue,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting of the international coalition against the Islamic State in Rome on Feb. 2.
In recent weeks, American, French, British and Italian special forces units have been executing reconnaissance missions in Libya and talking to local militias, according to The New York Times. However, the Obama administration has stated that it will restrict its military activity in the country to counterterrorism airstrikes, such as the one that targeted Chouchane.
International efforts to combat ISIS in Libya have faced difficulties arising from the civil war that has raged in the country since 2014, which has prevented communication between the different factions that control Libya’s various regions.
“We will continue to take actions where we’ve got a clear operation and a clear target in mind,” President Barack Obama told reporters on Feb. 16. “At the same time, we’re working diligently with the United Nations to try to get a government in place in Libya. And that’s been a problem.”