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US launches airstrikes against 'IS' in Libya

August 1, 2016

US warplanes have carried out airstrikes against "Islamic State" ("IS") in Libya after a request for help from the country's unity government. The aim is to boost government troops in the fight to take the town of Sirte.

Luftangriffe der USA gegen IS
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Ghirda

The US military conducted airstrikes against so-called "Islamic State" (IS) targets in Libya in response to a request from the Government of National Accord (GNA), the Pentagon said on Monday.

The raids were authorized by President Barack Obama, after being recommended by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Strikes were conducted against targets in and around the city of Sirte, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Seraj said.

"The first American airstrikes were carried out against precise positions of the Daesh (IS) organization were carried out today, causing severe losses to enemy ranks, " Seraj said in a statement on national television.

The Tripoli-based GNA launched an operation to retake the IS bastion of Sirte, the hometown of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, in May. The Islamists have controlled the town since June of last year.

Libyen Angriff libyscher Streitkräfte auf IS in Sirte
Troops fighting for the GNA near Sirte are mostly made up of militias from western LibyaImage: Reuters/G. Tomasevic

'Primary stronghold'

"At the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the United States military conducted precision air strikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya," said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, using ISIL as an alternative name for IS. Cook added that the US strikes in Sirte would continue.

Some 280 pro-government troops have died in the battle for Sirte while more than 1,500 have been wounded, according to medical sources. However, the troops fighting for the GNA , mostly made up of militias from western Libya, have been making advances in and around Sirte, including a nearby port area.

Meanwhile, a militia that was set up to guard oil facilities has also been making gains against IS.

The GNA was established as the result of a power sharing agreement that was brokered by the UN, but it has not yet been endorsed by Libya's elected parliament based in the east of the country.