The U.S. military has confirmed that a senior leader of an al Qaeda branch in Africa was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Libya on Saturday.
Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) official, was one of two militants killed in the precision strike near Ubari in southwestern Libya, Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement Wednesday.
"Now that operational reporting and the battle damage assessment is fully complete, the command is able to confirm the death of Dawud,” Africom said.
Saturday’s strike, which Africom disclosed over the weekend after media requests, was the first U.S. military strike in that country against AQIM. Previously, Africom focused its Libya strikes on the branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) around the northern city of Sirte.
Dawud was labeled as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department in 2016. He started engaging in terrorist activity as early as 1992, was appointed commander of the southern zone for AQIM in 2012 and was put in charge of a mission in Tunisia in 2013 to recruit and train new members in North Africa on the use of weapons, according to his designation.
He was responsible for a February 2013 attack on the military barracks in Khenchela, Algeria, that injured multiple soldiers, as well as a July 2013 attack on a Tunisian military patrol in the Mount Chaambi area that killed nine soldiers, the designation added.
“Dawud trained AQIM recruits in Libya for attack operations in the region,” Africom said in its statement. “He provided critical logistics support, funding and weapons to AQIM, enabling the terrorist group to threaten and attack U.S. and Western interests in the region.”
The military assessed no civilians were killed in the strike, according to Africom.
The strike was done in coordination with Libya’s Government of National Accord, the United Nations-recognized government of the fractured state, and under authorities given to the U.S. military by the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, Africom added.
“Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups, such as ISIS, have taken advantage of under-governed spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks; recruiting and facilitating the movement of foreign terrorist fighters; and raising and moving funds to support their operations,” Africom said.
“Left unaddressed, these organizations could continue to inflict casualties on the civilian populations and security forces, and plot attacks against U.S. citizens and allied interests in the region.”