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US launches air strikes against Isis in Libya

The Pentagon said Monday's strikes on Sirte were carried out after a request from the unity government, which is fighting extremists in the coastal city

Rob Crilly
New York
Monday 01 August 2016 20:10 BST
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Libyan forces fire at Isis fighters in Sirte
Libyan forces fire at Isis fighters in Sirte (Reuters)

The United States has launched air strikes against Isis in Libya, following a request from the country’s United Nations-backed government.

Fayez Sarraj, the Libyan prime minister, made a televised statement announcing the strikes.

“The first air strikes were carried out at specific locations in Sirte today causing severe losses to enemy ranks,” he said.

Western powers have become increasingly concerned about the growth of Isis in Libya, where Islamist groups have spread through a power vacuum following the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The Pentagon said one strike targeted a tank while a second strike was directed at two Isis vehicles.

“These actions and those we have taken previously will help deny Isis a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” said the Pentagon in a statement.

Officials said Barack Obama authorised the strike.

Militias allied with UN-backed government have been fighting Isis in Sirte - once Gaddafi's stronghold - since May.

The jihadist group seized control of the coastal city last year, raising fears that it was establishing an entry point into Europe as well as a fall-back position for its fighters as they came under pressure in Iraq and Syria.

Western officials once estimated the number of Isis fighters to be 6,000 but now believe figures are dwindling in the face of intense government action.

Desperate journeys: Rescued at sea, refugees detail abuse in Libya

British special forces have been spotted in the country advising Libyan forces in their fight against Isil. Local commanders praised their role, on one occasion saying they had destroyed a truck packed with explosives apparently en route to launch a suicide attack in Misrata.

In his televised statement Mr Sarraj said the US action was limited to Sirte and its immediate surroundings.

“The Presidential Council as the Supreme Commander of the army has decided to request the United States to carry out targeted air strikes on Isil,” he said.

“I want to assure you that these operations are limited to a specific timetable and do not exceed Sirte and its suburbs.”

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