Two civilians of Serbian embassy staffers died along with a reported two or more women in a US airstrike in Sabratha which overall killed between 43 and 60 people – mostly Tunisians, who were allegedly training to carry out atrocities in Tunisia on behalf of ISIS. The strike also reportedly killed Noureddine Chouchane, a senior member of the Islamic State group.
The two diplomats were being held hostage by ISIS. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić told reporters: “Apparently, the Americans were not aware that foreign citizens were being kept there.”
Al Nabaa reported that unknown aeroplanes conducted an airstrike that killed 20 people. It also referred to another source that said three airstrikes hit a two-storey house.
The Intercept investigated the case and found that evidence was “mounting” that the two Serbians were at the destroyed farm. The autopsy of the bodies showed the injuries sustained came most likely from a bombing and eyewitness confirmed that two bodies “didn’t look Libyan or Tunisian”.
According to Reuters – who cited the mayor of Sabratha, Hussein al-Thwadi “the planes hit a building in the city’s Qasr Talil district, home to many foreigners. Locals officials said 43 people were killed. The strikes targeted a house in a residential district west of the centre, municipal authorities said in a statement. The house had been rented to foreigners including Tunisians suspected of belonging to Islamic State, and medium-calibre weapons including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades had been found in the rubble, the statement said”. The mayor added that the building was “just a house, used for meetings”, and not, as claimed, a training camp for ISIS fighters.
Ahmned Bin Rashid Bin Said @loveLiberty tweeted that as many as 49 people died in the raid – including women. France24 also put the figure at 49, adding that “the raid also killed two embassy employees kidnapped in November.”
WND later reported: “The Libyan parliament filed a formal protest, saying it “strongly condemns” the airstrike because it involved no “coordination or consultation with the interim Libyan government.”
However, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told G2 Bulletin that there was indeed prior consultation and coordination and that the United States will continue its airstrikes against ISIS locations. Davis said that he wasn’t aware of any “fallout, per se” from the U.S. action but said that the attack was an “operation in coordination with international law and with the knowledge of Libyan authorities.”
The Washington Post reported: “Thus far, we have not found any credible information that indicates these people were killed in this air strike,” Davis said, referring to Serbian diplomats Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, who were kidnapped in Sabratha on Nov. 8th.” It further stated: “A defence official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal assessment, said the Pentagon had several reasons for believing the Serbians were not at the Islamic State camp when the strike place. First, he said, Libyan first responders who arrived at the bombing site and later took casualties to a nearby hospital had not reported finding Westerners on the scene.
Secondly, he said, photos circulated of the slain diplomats did not appear to have been taken at or near the bombing site and did not suggest either was killed in what the official described as a massive strike.
“The state of the remains was not consistent with having been killed in an airstrike of this magnitude and intensity,” the official said.
Instead, American officials said they believe the diplomats may have already been dead, and their bodies may have already been in Tripoli, at the time of the airstrike. Officials said they believed the Westerners were not being held hostage by the Islamic State but rather by a criminal group that hoped to ransom them for cash.
The incident occured around dawn.