A U.S. air strike on an ISIS training compound in Libya probably averted a mass shooting or a similar attack in Tunisia, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
Friday’s bombardment of the camp in Libya killed dozens of people, likely including senior ISIS operative Noureddine Chouchane. Officials say he helped plot two devastating ISIS-claimed attacks in neighboring Tunisia last year.
During the first of those assaults, in March, militant gunmen at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis killed 21 tourists and a policeman.
Then in June, a Kalashnikov-wielding attacker opened fire at a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse, killing 38 tourists, including 30 Britons.
The ISIS compound destroyed near the city of Sabratha on Friday was “very focused on training to conduct operations, the type of operations that we saw in Tunisia,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.
“We are confident that what happened Friday with that strike prevented a larger tragedy with there being an external attack of some sort,” he added. “Both the type of training they were doing there and the proximity to the Tunisian border suggest that some larger plan was in the works.”
The training facility hosted as many as 60 militants at any one time who were being schooled in carrying out “the types of attacks you’ve seen in Tunisia,” Davis said.
“People working in very synchronized coordinated groups on the ground with small arms; that is the type of training we saw here,” he added.
Serbia says two embassy employees kidnapped by the IS group died in the strike.
Davis said the United States was still looking into the claim and could not currently confirm it.
“This was a site that we had watched very closely for many weeks and never at any time did we see any indication that there were civilians present or being held there,” he said.
The United States has led a coalition air war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for 18 months.
Although the campaign has dealt the extremists some significant blows, the group has continued to expand its presence in Libya.SHOW MORE