19 February 2016

Libya: U.S. Airstrikes Hit 'Islamic State' (IS) Targets

US warplanes have targeted 'Islamic State' (IS) training camps in Libya, according to a military spokesman. US officials say the militant group has increased its activities in the conflict-ridden North African country.

A US official said Friday that a "high value" target was among more than 40 people killed in a dawn air raid in the Sabratha area outside Tripoli in Libya. The target is believed to be Noureddine Chouchane, a senior Tunisian operative suspected of carrying out two major attacks in Tunisia, which is Libya's neighbor to the northwest.

"We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate," said Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Africa command.

Last week, US President Barack Obama directed his national security team towards enhanced counter-terrorism efforts in Libya. He also emphasized that diplomatic efforts must continue in the violence-marred country to reach a political solution to the ongoing crisis.

Since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's government in 2011, Libya has plunged into a civil war with rival groups setting up two governments and two parliaments. Each is backed by heavily armed former rebels.

Post-Gaddafi rulers have struggled to impose order with much of the country paralyzed by political infighting and armed conflicts.

IS exploiting situation

Military observers say that IS, which is more active in Syria and Iraq, is exploiting the chaotic situation in Libya to increase its power there. European sources claim there could be up to 5,000 IS fighters operating in the country.

British, French and Italian special forces are in Libya, helping with aerial surveillance and intelligence gathering. However, it is unclear when the US would send its forces to the country. Earlier this month, US officials said they needed to consult their European counterparts to make a final decision on the matter.

shs/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)


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