Serraj said in a televised statement that American warplanes attacked the IS bastion of Sirte. No U.S. ground forces will be deployed, he said.
Serraj said in a televised statement that American warplanes attacked the IS bastion of Sirte. No U.S. ground forces will be deployed, he said. Leonhard Foeger - Pool Photo via AP

Libya requests US air strikes against ISIS

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 added that 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.

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 Isis," 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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