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US military ends anti-IS operation in Sirte

December 21, 2016

The US has ended a military operation to support Libya's fledgling government in its efforts to retake the former IS stronghold of Sirte. The militant group still retains a presence in the country.

A member of forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) takes cover behind a wall
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Turkia

The US military has formally ended operations to drive the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) from its former stronghold in Libya, US military's Africa Command said in a statement on Tuesday.

The United States on August 1 launched Operation Odyssey Lightning to help government-aligned forces push IS from Sirte. Fayez al-Sarraj, the leader of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), announced over the weekend that military operations begun in June in the coastal city had been completed after tough fighting to root out the jihadists.

 "In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh (IS) out of Sirte," Africa Command said.

US drones, warships and jets conducted 495 strikes on IS vehicles, tanks, heavy guns, fighting positions and command centers as GNA-aligned forces fought to retake the city, located 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli.

The loss of Sirte is a major blow to the extremist organization, but it still retains a presence in the war-torn country. The extremist group has also been dealt a number of setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

The US military said it would continue to support the internationally recognized Libyan government to help "counter the evolving threat" posed by IS.

Libya descended into chaos following a 2011 NATO-backed military operation to oust longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi, dividing into two rival administrations in the east and west. Rival factions and militias have been vying for influence and resources in the oil-rich North African country.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP)