In the evening of July 25, an unknown aircraft conducted an airstrike that struck a vehicle in front of a house in the Al-Sharib district of Ubari. An area mainly inhabited by Libyan and Malian Tuareg. The airstrike briefly interrupted electricity and telecommunications. The air raid was initially assumed to have been carried out by the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), considering recent U.S. action on March 24 in a nearby area of Ubari, an airstrike that killed two militants of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) including the Algerian senior commander Moussa Bourahla, known by his nom de guerre “Musa Abu Dawud”. However, AFRICOM denied responsibility for the latest airstrike in a communication to Airwars. U.S. denial strongly points to France as the author of the operation, taking into account previous action and its strategic interests in the region, although this has still not been confirmed.
Speculations have gone wild about the target of the airstrike and individuals killed. Some Libyan news outlets reported that six individuals including three Malians, two Algerians and a Libyan named as “Abu Laith al-Libi” had been killed, while others said that the deputy emir of Jama’ah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin and the emir of AQIM’s Sahara Region, Yahya Abu al-Hammam (Djamel Okacha) had been targeted together with Katibat al-Furqan commander Talha al-Mauritani. A source close to AQIM acknowledged in a communication (published on Twitter by French researcher Romain Caillet) that Abu al-Hammam and Al-Mauritani were those targeted, although not present in Libya, but on Malian soil fighting the “occupying Crusaders”, the same source further indicated that the airstrike had been carried out by the United Arab Emirates. However, according to information received by MENASTREAM, there was only one individual killed in the Ubari strike, namely AQIM commander Ramzi Mansour, a Tunisian going by the nom de guerre Ramzi al-Tunisi, an aide of late Moussa Bourahla, killed in the previously mentioned airstrike by the U.S. in Ubari. Another Tunisian, late Al-Mourabitoun member Mokhtar Akkouri was killed in an airstrike in Gardhah al-Shati in November 2016.
Last night on Monday November 14 were airstrikes by “unknown aircraft” reported in the area of Gardhah al-Shati north of Sebha, the strikes that reportedly killed a number of terrorists gave rise to a lot of speculation in Libyan media and on social media platforms. The reports were very conflicting with assumptions on many potential targets, mentioned was Abderrahmane Talha or his nom the guerre Talha al-Mauritani, AQIM’s commander of the Furqan Brigade active in the Tombouctou region. Another potential target was Abdel Moneim Salem Khalifah Hasnawi known as Abu Talha al-Libi, former commander of the Muhajireen Brigade active in the Latakia province of Syria, recently spotted in Sebha according to a local source. Document below shows Hasnawi as coordinator for a group of fighters within the so-called “Thuwar Sebha”, some of them among those fighting ISIS in Sirte, “Thuwar Sebha” also works together with Misrata’s Third Force stationed in Sebha, Saraya Defend Benghazi which also is present in the region and remnants of Ibrahim Jathran’s Petroleum Facilities Guard.
With previously mentioned incident in mind one could easily look back at the airstrike that took place on September 20 at Agricultural Project Nina, near Sawknah. Until this day it is still unknown whether the Misratan Airforce conducted the strike to thwart LNA advances in the region or if Haftar’s LAF acted on intelligence that Ibrahim Jathran was present in the area. The airstrike only caused civilian casualties.
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No official claim of responsibility for the air raid has been made, but it is very much suspected that the airstrikes carried out was part of US ambitions to extend its aerial campaign against ISIS beyond Sirte by targeting fighters and operatives who have fled the former stronghold, hence not targeting any senior AQIM commanders like Talha al-Mauritani or Abdelmalek Droukdel and Mokhtar Belmokhtar as stated in multiple reports.
The Municipal Council of Gardhah al-Shati strongly condemned the bombardment in a communiqué, stating that the airstrikes caused civilian casualties and destroyed many houses while damaging others, further requesting clarification on the circumstances and information about the actor responsable for the airstrikes, also demanding a statement condemning the act and compensation for the affected families.
The news outlet Libya al-Aan later released a report stating that the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord confirmed that the US conducted the airstrikes in southern Libya in coordination with the council, without specifying the target of the air raid.