Home > Asia
Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 12:25

US starts bombing campaign on IS in Libya

By Reuters

US starts bombing campaign on IS in Libya
SIRTE, Libya/WASHINGTON - US planes bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, responding to the UN-backed government's request to help push the militants from their former stronghold of Sirte in what US officials described as the start of a sustained campaign against the extremist group in the city.

"The first air strikes were carried out at specific locations in Sirte today causing severe losses to enemy ranks," Prime Minster Fayez Seraj said on state TV. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the strikes did not have "an end point at this particular moment in time".

Forces allied with Seraj have been battling Islamic State in Sirte - the home town of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi - since May.

The militants seized the Mediterranean coastal city last year, making it their most important base outside Syria and Iraq. But they are now besieged in a few square kilometres of the centre, where they hold strategic sites, including the Ouagadougou conference hall, the central hospital and the university.

Seraj said the Presidential Council of his Government of National Accord, or GNA, had decided to "activate" its participation in the international coalition against Islamic State and "request the United States to carry out targeted air strikes on Daesh (Islamic State)."

The air strikes on Monday - which were authorised by US President Barack Obama - hit an Islamic State tank and two vehicles that posed a threat to forces aligned with Libya's GNA, Cook said.

In the future, each individual strike will be coordinated with the GNA and needs the approval of the commander of US forces in Africa, Cook added.

This was the third US air strike against Islamic State militants in Libya. But US officials said this one marked the start of a sustained air campaign rather than another isolated strike.

The last acknowledged US air strikes in Libya were on an Islamic State training camp in the western city of Sabratha in February.

Obama authorised the strikes after a recommendation by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Washington took part in air strikes in 2011 to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya which helped topple Gaddafi. The country has struggled since then and Obama said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine in April that the intervention "didn't work".

The White House said US assistance to Libya would be limited to air strikes and information sharing.

US and Libyan officials estimate that several hundred Islamic State fighters remain in Sirte.

Latest News