US air raid on Islamic State training camp in Libya launched from RAF Lakenheath

An F-15 taking off at RAF Lakenheath

An F-15 taking off at RAF Lakenheath - Credit: Archant

A US air raid on an Islamic State training camp in Libya was launched from RAF Lakenheath.

The attack, launched from the Suffolk airbase on Friday, has been welcomed by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

He said: 'I welcome this strike that has taken out a Daesh (Islamic State) training camp being used to train terrorists to carry out attacks.

'I was satisfied that its destruction makes us all safer and I personally authorised the use of our bases.'

More than 40 people were killed and others wounded, some critically, according to local officials.

One official described the strikes as being carried out 'against an Isil training camp' and said an attack near Sabratha, not far from the Tunisian border, probably killed IS operative Noureddine Chouchane, who is believed to be Tunisian.

Chouchane was suspected in the Sousse attack last year which saw more than 30 British nationals killed.

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The official said up to 60 people were at the camp at the time of the strike.

A witness in the city said he heard two explosions coming from the nearby village of Qasr Talel. He said the house that was targeted belongs to Abdel-Hakim al-Mashawat, known locally as an IS militant.

The official Facebook page of Sabratha city council put the death toll at over 40 with more wounded.

'There are torn body parts buried under the rubble,' it said in a posting. It noted that the victims were not all Libyans. The witness said he saw a hospital list that noted victims were also from Tunisia and Algeria.

Sabratha is one of the main launching points for smugglers' boats heading to Europe. It has been also a transit point for North African jihadists joining IS affiliates in their strongholds in the central city of Sirte and eastern cities such as Benghazi.

US President Barack Obama earlier this year directed his national security team to bolster counter-terrorism efforts in Libya while also pursuing diplomatic possibilities for solving its political crisis. US officials had said they were holding off on sustained military action against IS targets in Libya until a government was formed, a process that is still incomplete

The US military has been closely monitoring IS movements in Libya, and small teams of military personnel have moved in and out of the country over a period of months.

British, French and Italian special forces have also been in Libya helping with aerial surveillance, mapping and intelligence gathering in several cities, including Benghazi in the east and Zintan in the west, according to Libyan military officials who are co-ordinating with them.