Middle East Updates / ISIS Kills 14 Libyan Soldiers, Official Government Says

France: World powers must tackle instability in Libya; Saudi ISIS cleric killed in Kobani, Syria; father of captured Jordanian pilot asks ISIS to treat him well.

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Fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia prepare to fire an anti-tank during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's government near the Wetia military air base, December 30, 2014.
Fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia prepare to fire an anti-tank during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's government near the Wetia military air base, December 30, 2014. Credit: AFP

For Friday's latest updates, click here

Latest updates:

11:14 P.M. Defendant in 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies says always opposed violence

An Egyptian attorney who pleaded guilty in connection to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa has told a judge preparing to sentence him that he has always opposed violence and wants to return to his family.

A letter from Adel Abdul Bary was included in court papers filed Friday. It was the same day a co-defendant died, just before his New York trial was to start.

Bary pleaded guilty in September to making death threats against Americans. His surprising plea deal called for him to face no more than 25 years in prison. He can also receive credit for the 15 years he has been incarcerated and serve the remainder of his term in another country. His sentencing is set for Jan. 12. (AP)

10:24 P.M. Islamic State kills 14 Libyan soldiers, official government says

Supporters of Islamic State, the militant group that has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria, have killed 14 Libyan soldiers in the south of the country, the official government said on Saturday.

The recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, which has been forced to work from the east since a group known as Libya Dawn linked to Misrata seized Tripoli last August, said Islamic State had executed 14 soldiers on a road north of Sabha, the main city in the south.

"Members of IS staged an attack... during which they executed 14 members of the Libyan army belonging to the infantry battalion 168," the government said in a statement, asking the international community to lift an arms embargo to help fight what it called terrorists.

A website called Islamic State in Libya claimed responsibility for killing 12 soldiers at the same location and posted a picture purporting to show the execution of one soldier.  A rival Libyan parliament in Tripoli denounced the killing, a Tripoli-based news agency said. (Reuters)

4:04 P.M. Father of captured pilot asks ISIS to treat him well

The father of the Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State group appealed Saturday to the militants to treat his son well and with respect.

The pilot, 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, was taken captive on December 24 after his F-16 fighter jet crashed near the extremists' de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria. The 26-year-old Jordanian is the first known foreign military pilot to fall into the militants' hands since the U.S.-led international coalition began its aerial campaign against the ISIS in September.

Speaking to reporters from his home village of Aii in central Jordan, the pilot's father, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, said Saturday that he is "confident" that his son is "in safe hands in a place where he is respected."

"I want to tell our brothers in the Islamic State that Mu'ath is your son same as he is our son," al-Kaseasbeh said. "My message to them on this day, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, is that they treat him in a good way, and to treat him as a guest."

The younger al-Kaseasbeh was carrying out airstrikes against the militants when his warplane went down.

In its monthly magazine, the Islamic State group published what it said was an interview with al-Kaseasbeh in which the pilot says he was shot down by a heat-seeking missile. That version contradicts statements from the United States, which has denied that the militants downed the Jordanian's aircraft.

Other than the purported interview, there has been no word on al-Kaseasbeh or his fate.

The Islamic State group follows an extremist version of Islam that considers rivals, even some fellow Sunni Muslims, as apostates, and the group has executed captured Iraqi and Syrian Muslim soldiers in the past. Still, the group may want to negotiate a prisoner swap or other concessions from Jordan. (AP)

3:32 P.M. ISIS seeking bases inside Lebanon, Lebanese security chief says

1:06 A.M. France wants action on Libya, stops short of African calls for intervention

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday world powers must tackle instability in Libya but he stopped short of openly backing the military intervention called for by regional powers in the Sahel.

Speaking shortly after meeting Le Drian in Niamey, Niger's president, Mahamadou Issoufou, reiterated calls for an international military intervention in Libya, a position supported by several other African leaders concerned about the impact of the country's lawlessness on the region.

The leaders of Mali and Senegal have called for action by the West in Libya to end to chaos they say stems from the 2011 intervention that helped oust Libya's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

While two rival governments compete for legitimacy in Tripoli, Libya's desert south has become a stronghold for armed groups, some with links to al Qaeda.

"Libya is chaos today and it is a breeding ground for terrorists that threaten the stability of Niger and, further afield, France," Le Drian said in Niamey.

"We think that the moment has come to ensure that the international community tackles the Libyan problem. I think this is also what President Issoufou believes," he said. (Reuters)


10:11 P.M. Saudi ISIS cleric killed in Kobani, Syria

A Saudi cleric with the Islamic State group has been killed in the northern Syrian town of Kobani that has been witnessing intense clashes for months between jihadis and Kurdish gunmen, activists said Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Othman al-Nazeh al-Assiri was killed Thursday while battling Kurdish fighters in Kobani.

Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, including the Raqqa Media Center, which operates in areas under Islamic State control, said al-Assiri was killed in an air strike on Kobani by the U.S.-led coalition. (AP)

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