The Islamic State militant thought to have been killed in a Friday morning airstrike in Libya was reportedly linked to several major terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year.
U.S. officials said Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian member of the extremist group, helped train militants who launched a deadly attack on a Tunis museum last year and another at a beach resort popular with Europeans. He also helped facilitate the movement of Islamic State fighters from Tunisia to Libya, the officials said.
The attack on the Bardo Museum in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, involved three gunmen dressed in police uniforms. They killed 23 people, including 17 foreigners. Two months later, a lone gunmen smuggled a Kalashnikov-type rifle under a beach umbrella and began shooting beach-goers at a resort in Sousse, on Tunisia’s coast. That attack left 38 dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both the Bardo and Sousse rampages.
Both attacks targeted Tunisia’s tourism industry and managed to deal a sharp blow to the small country’s economy.
According to a Tunisian news site, Chouchane was a kick boxer who lived in Italy for a time and later joined the militant group Ansar al-Sharia. His family is from Sidi Bouzid, a city in central Tunisia, according to the site. The Post could not independently verify that information.
The airstrike near Sabratha, in western Libya, Friday morning was conducted by U.S. F-15 strike fighters. It also supposedly destroyed an Islamic State training camp.
“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,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Chouchane was one of five militants for whom Tunisia had issued arrest warrants in the weeks after the Bardo attack. One of them, a Moroccan named Mohamed Ali Aroui, was arrested trying to flee into Libya. The other three, Adel Ghandri, Chemseddine Sendi and Maher Gadi, have yet to be found. It is unclear whether any of them were killed in the Sabratha strike.
Missy Ryan contributed to this report.