US Airstrike In Libya A Sign Of Things To Come

The first any of the targets of the American airstrike would have known about it would have been when the survivors dragged themselves from the smoking craters.

Death, in this form, comes with the scream of a diving missile only for those who are not in its cross-hairs.

But that America and her allies are building towards some kind of greater campaign in Libya has been telegraphed for some time.

The main target of the United States Air Force was Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian terrorist believed to have been a ring leader in the organisation of the massacres at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis that killed 22 people in March and another in June that killed 38 people at a beach in the coastal resort in Sousse.

Most the seaside atrocity’s victims were British so it can be safely assumed that British intelligence and Special Forces operators were closely involved in the airstrike from an American F-15 jet.

It is not clear if Chouchane was killed in the attack.

But up to 40 others are believed to have been – they are reported to have been jihadis, mostly Tunisians, who may have gathered to hear a religious scholar’s indoctrination. One survivor, a Jordanian, is reported to have died in hospital later.

President Barack Obama has been under pressure to order a greater role for US forces in Libya since the country collapsed into anarchy in 2011 after colonel Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in the western-backed revolution.

Image credit: Sky News
Image credit: Sky News

The US was part of the air campaign that helped the rebellion. But it was led by France and Britain.

There are plans to send a 6,000-person force of British, French and Italian troops to Libya as part of an Italian-led multinational effort to “train” Libyan government services to fight against so-called Islamic State there.

But for now these plans are on hold as there has been no formal invitation from a government worth the name in Libya. There are currently three administrations there. One which is internationally recognised rules from Tobruk in the far east.

A second rules the West from Tripoli – and a third is supposed to have been formed by the other two as part of a United Nations sponsored deal – but major factions on both sides refuse to recognise it.

Political paralysis, the chaos of warring militia and general chaos fuelled by a vast amount of weapons taken from Gaddafi’s stockpiles have provided fertile grounds for the apocalyptic cult of IS to take root.

It has already established itself in Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town, and controls about 250 miles of coastline where it has been pressing towards Libya’s main oil export terminals.

But it also has a presence in the west near Sabratha – which gives it a launch pad to extend operations into Tunisia – and is why the isolated farm house used by the Jihadis has been flattened by American aircraft.

While talk of large-scale military intervention in Libya goes on, we can expect more of these “targeted killings”.

By Sam Kiley, Foreign Affairs Editor

(c) Sky News 2016

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