A U.S. Airstrike targeting an Islamic State leader operating in Libya may have killed two Serbian embassy staffers who were being held hostage, according to media reports Saturday.
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Dozens were believed killed when American F-15E fighter bombers struck an Islamic State training camp Friday located in a coastal city west of Tripoli. The U.S. Was targeting Noureddine Chouchane, identified by the Tunisian government as a suspect in the attack at the Bardo Museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told reporters Saturday that an embassy communications officer, Sladjana Stankovic, and a driver, Jovica Stepic, are believed to have died in the attack, according to media reports.. He said they had been held since November when their diplomatic convoy came under attack near Sabratha, the city where the Islamic State training base was located.
Photos believed to be of the two dead embassy workers were sent by Libyan authorities to Serbian diplomats, Reuters reported. “We are expecting identification of the victims, so formally we cannot confirm the information,” Dacic said, according to Reuters.
He said that his country had been working to obtain release of the two employees when the attack occurred, according to the Associated Press.
“I believe we had been close to the solution for them to be freed,” Dacic said, according to AP. “We will seek official explanation from both Libya and the United States about the available facts and the selection of targets.”.
The Serbian ambassador to Libya, Oliver Potezica, was in the convoy attacked by gunmen in November. He managed to escape unharmed, AP reported.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Friday that U.S. Military officials were confident they killed Chouchane in the airstrike. He said the attack was approved by President Obama.
He said the militants were planning terror actions against the U.S. And other Western countries and there was a need to move quickly in launching the airstrike. The Pentagon estimated that up to 60 militants were located at the training camp.
Libya has been in the midst of chaos since a U.S.-Backed coalition helped rebels overthrow the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Islamic State militants have used the opportunity to establish a growing presence there.
In other news Saturday:.
• A key Syrian opposition group agreed to a truce in the 5-year-old civil war contingent on the Syrian government lifting blockades from rebel-held areas and releasing thousands of prisoners, according to AP. The move was the first positive development since a deadline for a ceasefire, called for by 18 nations including the U.S. And Russia earlier this months, passed without success this week.
• Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday over progress in delivering humanitarian aid to starving Syria populations caught between warring factions. Both agreed to keep pushing for assistance to continue, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby. Kerry reiterated concerns about indiscriminate bombing by Russian aircraft operating in support of the Syrian government.
• Hundreds of pro-Russian Serb nationalists in Belgrade protested the government’s move to forge closer ties with NATO, AP reported.