Small Wars Journal

Third U.S. Strike in Libya Targets Islamic State Terror Group

Third U.S. Strike in Libya Targets Islamic State Terror Group

Carla Babb – Voice of America

A U.S. airstrike in Libya has killed at least 10 Islamic State fighters, an official has told VOA.

It is the third U.S. strike this month against the terror group in the southwestern Libyan town of Murzuq. 

An airstrike Tuesday killed 11 IS militants, and another last week killed eight, according to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). 

The strikes were carried out in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord to "deny them the ability to conduct attacks on the Libyan people," William Gayler, director of operations at AFRICOM, said earlier this week.

The deteriorating security situation in Libya has allowed militants affiliated with IS to expand their presence in ungoverned spaces of the desert in the country's south.

Troops affiliated with the Government of National Accord have been fighting forces led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army. The fighting has left hundreds of people dead in Tripoli and in nearby cities and towns. 

In recent months, IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks against Libyan civilians and military personnel.  

But as IS has become more emboldened by the current political chaos in Libya, U.S. officials tell VOA they have also made themselves an easier target.

Some reports say that between 500 and 750 IS fighters are currently active in Libya, but experts think the number is higher than what has been reported.

“I would say at least 2,000 (IS) fighters operate throughout Libya,” said Mahmoud Masrati, a Libyan journalist who closely follows militant groups in the conflict-ridden country.

“With the war on (IS) in Syria nearly over, many of the surviving terrorists there have managed to reach Libya. So, their number is growing significantly,” he told VOA.