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US launches first anti-Islamic State air raids in Libya’s Sirte

United States

TRIPOLI: US warplanes Monday carried out air strikes on positions of the Islamic State jihadist group in its Libyan stronghold of Sirte for the first time, the country’s unity government announced.

“The first American air strikes on precise positions of the Daesh (IS) organisation were carried out today, causing heavy losses… in Sirte,” prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj said in a televised speech.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the raids were launched in response to a request from Sarraj’s Government of National Accord.

“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 inLibya,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said, using another name for IS.

Monday’s action came after a US raid targeted an IS training camp in a rural area near Sabratha, outside Tripoli, in February and a targeted strike last November.

One strike on Monday destroyed an IS tank that been targeting civilians, and a second hit two IS vehicles that “posed a threat” to local forces, Cook said, adding that US strikes in Sirte “will continue”, without elaborating.

President Barack Obama authorised the bombings following recommendations from top Pentagon officials, and the strikes are “consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces”, Cook added.

“The US stands with the international community in supporting the GNA as it strives to restore stability and security to Libya,” he said.

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