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US airstrike kills Islamic State fighters in Libya

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By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 20, 2019

STUTTGART, Germany – A U.S. airstrike has killed eight Islamic State fighters in southwestern Libya, marking the first such attack by American forces in the country this year, U.S. Africa Command said Friday.

“U.S. Africa Command conducted this airstrike to eliminate terrorist leaders and fighters and to disrupt terrorist activity,” AFRICOM’s Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a statement. “We will not allow them to use the current conflict in Libya as protection.”

The strike was carried out in the vicinity of Murzuq on Thursday in coordination with the Libyan government, AFRICOM said.

No civilians were killed or injured in the strike, according to an AFRICOM assessment.

AFRICOM did not say what type of aircraft carried out the strikes or where they came from.

“Due to operational security, I cannot get into platform specifics, but I will say we have a range of capabilities at various locations in the region that allow us to carry out these airstrikes,” said Becky Farmer, an AFRICOM spokeswoman.

Among the locations available to AFRICOM is a new base in central Niger, where the U.S. Air Force last month began conducting surveillance operations. Known as Nigerien Air Base 201, the site was established to serve as a launching pad for conducting reconnaissance missions that extend into southern Libya.

For the past eight years, Libya has been embroiled in a civil war that has pitted a U.S.-backed central government against various militia groups. The U.S. has raised concerns that the military conflict and overall disorder could allow groups such as ISIS-Libya to seek sanctuary in the North African country.

“Together with our Libyan partners, we will continue to deny terrorists safe haven in Libya,” Townsend said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is attempting to broker a political deal between the Libya’s Government of National Accord and Khalifa Hifter, a powerful rebel leader who commands a militia called the Libyan National Army. On Thursday, U.S. officials held talks with Hifter in Abu Dhabi.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vanndiver
 

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