Al Qaeda leader killed by drone strike in Libya identified by Pentagon

A U.S. drone strike killed a “high ranking” official in the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb terror cell in Libya on Saturday, the Pentagon disclosed Wednesday. It marked the first American drone strike against Al Qaeda in Libya.

Musa Abu Dawud was one of two AQIM terrorists killed in the airstrike in southwest Libya near the city of Ubari in the Sahara desert.

“Dawud trained AQIM recruits in Libya for attack operations in the region.  He provided critical logistics support, funding and weapons to AQIM, enabling the terrorist group to threaten and attack U.S. and Western interests in the region,” U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement.

The State Department placed Dawud on its terrorist list in 2016 for his role in carrying out terrorist attacks in Algeria and Tunisia that killed roughly a dozen soldiers. 

The State Department said that Dawud headed the “training and recruitment of new members for AQIM.”

The American drone strike in Libya on Saturday was the second of 2018, after seven late last year. Until this past weekend, drone strikes had only targeted ISIS-affiliated fighters in Libya.

DRONE STRIKE IN LIBYA KILLS 2 'TERRORISTS,' US AFRICA COMMAND SAYS

“We assess no civilians were killed in this strike” over the weekend, U.S. Africa Command said.

Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups have “taken advantage” of ungoverned areas in southern Libya to establish “sanctuaries” for plotting attacks in Africa and against the West, the statement added.

In 2016, the U.S. military carried out nearly 500 airstrikes against an ISIS enclave in the coastal city of Sirte.

The day before leaving office in January 2017, then-President Barack Obama ordered an airstrike against two ISIS training camps using a pair of B-2 stealth bombers based in Missouri.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews