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US bombers strike Islamic State camps in Libya

The overnight strikes have targeted Islamic State extremists near the city of Sirte. US President Barack Obama authorized the move just days short of leaving office.

A US defense official said Thursday that Air Force B-2 stealth bombers and drones had attacked Islamic State (IS) camps located 45 kilometers (28 miles) southwest of the city of Sirte.

The official, who spoke anonymously in advance of an expected Pentagon announcement, said that the strike "was done with the cooperation of the Government of National Accord [of Libya]." IS fighters "were seen immediately beforehand carrying weapons, wearing tactical vests, carrying mortars and standing in formation," he said.

In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said the strike's targets were IS militants who had previously left the coastal city.

"The [IS] terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and US national interests," Cook said. He also noted that the strikes appeared "successful."

The anonymous official also said that "several dozen" militants are believed to have been killed. 

After the nearly 500 American airstrikes aimed at ridding Sirte of IS militants officially ended in December 2016, Pentagon officials promised to help support future counter-extremist measures, if requested to do so by the GNA. At the time, the collapse of Sirte as a jihadist stronghold was a major setback for IS. The extremist group also recently suffered military defeat in the Iraqi city Mosul.

 

Obama last's military maneuver

In what will most likely be the last use of his power as Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, outgoing President Barack Obama authorized the overnight airstrikes in Sirte.

Obama joined other NATO coalition nations in 2011 to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, eventually helping to oust long-term dictator Muammar Gadhafi. After Gadhafi's capture and death, the Mediterranean nation descended into chaos and factional rivalries that effectively split the country between east and west. 

Political infighting has continued in the oil-rich nation despite the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015, which led to the creation of the GNA. The country hopes an upturn in oil production could help stabilize the national economic situation.

cmb/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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