US launches air strikes against DAESH in Libya

Bombing the positions of DAESH comes in response to the UN backed unity government’s calls to repulse the terrorists from its former stronghold of Sirte.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government runs for cover during a battle with DAESH in Sirte, Libya on July 31, 2016.

The US launched a new military campaign against DAESH in Libya on Monday, bombing the positions of the terrorist organisation in response to the UN backed unity government’s calls to repulse the terrorists from its former stronghold Sirte.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said this was the first strike of a new campaign which does not have "an end point at this particular moment in time."

“We want to strike at ISIL[DAESH] anywhere it raises its head, Libya is one of those places."

Prime Minister Fayez Seraj said, "The presidency council, as the general army commander, has made a request for direct US support to carry out specific air strikes."

“The first strikes started today in positions in Sirte, causing major casualties,” Seraj added.

The terrorists seized the Mediterranean coastal city last year, but the Libyan forces have been fighting to take it over since May.

US President Barack Obama authorised the strikes last week following consultations with Defence Secretary Ash Carter and senior military commanders.

Cook said, "At the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord, the United States military conducted precision air strikes against ISIL [DAESH] targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya."

Later on, individual strikes will be determined with the GNA and also will be in need of the approval of the commander of US forces in Africa, he added.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) is an interim government for Libya that was formed under the terms of the UN-brokered power-sharing Libyan Political Agreement which was signed on December 2015 to end a conflict between two rival governments and the armed groups that supported them.

Cook estimated that there are most likely "hundreds" and no more than 1,000 DAESH terrorists in Sirte.

But he could not provide an accurate number for the civilians inside the city which is the birthplace of  Libya's ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Based on a report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said during a Security Council last month that there are between 2,000 and 5,000 DAESH terrorists from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Mauritania deployed in Sirte, Tripoli and Derna.

TRTWorld and agencies