Attack on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi
Attack on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Reuters

An American airstrike in northern Iraq has killed an Islamic State (ISIS) operative who was a person of interest in the 2012 Benghazi attack, the Pentagon said Monday, according to AFP.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren identified the operative as Tariq bin al-Tahar bin al-Falih al-'Awni al-Harzi of Tunisia, who was killed in Mosul on June 15.

The United States Treasury and the State Department had designated him as a terrorist operating for or on behalf of ISIS, noted AFP.

"His death degrades ISIL's ability to integrate North African jihadists into the Syrian and Iraqi fight and removes a jihadist with long ties to international terrorism," Warren said, using another acronym for the jihadist group which has taken over swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Harzi was considered a person of interest in the terrorist attack on the American mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11, 2012, that killed the American ambassador and three other Americans.

The fighter was also said to operate closely with ISIS-affiliated terrorists throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

In its terrorist designation in September, the Treasury described Harzi as a "high-profile" member of the self-proclaimed Islamic State that has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

It said he raised funds for the group, as well as recruited and facilitated the travel of ISIS fighters since 2013.

Harzi was considered one of the first people to join the group as a fighter, and was named "emir" for the border region between Syria and Turkey, and helped facilitate the travel of Europeans to Syria via Turkey, including from Albania, Britain and Denmark.

The Treasury said Harzi had arranged for ISIS to receive about $2 million from a Qatar-based financial facilitator in September 2013 who required that he only use the funds for military operations.

It said he led foreign operations for ISIS in mid-2013 and had ordered individuals to plan a major operation targeting a commander of the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Ahmed Abu Khattala, a prime suspect in the Benghazi attack, was captured a year ago by U.S. special forces and brought to the United States to face trial.

Abu Khattala had initially been charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists resulting in death, and was later accused of new charges arising from the 2012 attacks, including crimes punishable by the death penalty.

Khattala, a leader of the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia, has previously denied any connection to the Benghazi attack and has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges.