US airstrikes target ISIS in Libya

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U.S. officials said Friday that the military had launched overnight airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Libya.

The targets included a senior militant leader and a training camp.

The mayor of Sabratha, Libya, told The New York Times that 41 people were killed in the U.S. airstrikes at 3:30 a.m. local time. Officials were working to determine if Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian extremist linked to major terrorist attacks in that nation, is among the dead.

"We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a statement. 

"This strike demonstrates we will go after ISIL whenever it is necessary, using the full range of tools at our disposal," he said, using another acronym for ISIS. 

A defense official told The Hill that Chouchane was "likely killed" in the strike.

The Defense Department has been stepping up its anti-ISIS involvement in Libya in recent months with small teams of military personnel moving in and out of the country, according to The Associated Press. Along with Afghanistan, Libya is seen as a key area of concern for the terrorist group outside of its main Middle East territory.

Cook said Chouchane is a suspect in a March 18, 2015, attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and facilitated the movement of potential ISIS-affiliated foreign fighters from Tunisia to Libya and onward to other countries. 
"Destruction of the camp and Chouchane's removal will eliminate an experienced facilitator and is expected to have an immediate impact on ISIL's ability to facilitate its activities in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and potentially planning external attacks on U.S. interests in the region," he added.

Republicans have been pressing the Obama administration to expand its efforts in Libya, where the number of estimated ISIS fighters has doubled in the last year to between 5,000 and 6,500.

Kristina Wong contributed to this report; last updated at 9:27 a.m.