U.S. forces, in coordination with Libya’s government of national accord and aligned forces, conducted six precision airstrikes in Libya against an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria desert camp Sept. 22, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said here today.
The strikes killed 17 ISIS militants and destroyed three vehicles in a camp about 150 miles southeast of Sirte, Manning told reporters during a briefing that also covered operations in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS used the camp to move fighters in and out of the country, stockpile weapons and equipment and plot and conduct attacks, Manning said. “ISIS and al-Qaida have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks,” he added.
No Safe Haven
The terrorists,U.S. Africa Commandofficials said in a statement, also use such spaces to recruit and facilitate the movement of foreign terrorist fighters and to raise and move funds to support their operations.
“These terrorists have sought safe haven and freedom of movement in Libya to launch external terror attacks in neighboring countries, and their operatives in Libya have also been connected to multiple attacks across Europe,” Africom officials said.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the government of national accord and their aligned forces have been stalwart and valued partners against terrorism, Africom officials added. And while Libya has made considerable progress against ISIS, most notably by dislodging ISIS fighters from Sirte last year, the terrorists have tried to take advantage of political instability there to create safe havens in parts of the country, they said.
Leaving this unaddressed, Africom officials said, would allow the violent terrorist organization to inspire attacks against America, its allies and American interests around the world.
“The United States,” Manning said, “will track and hunt these terrorists, degrade their capabilities and disrupt their planning and operations by all appropriate, lawful and proportional means, including precision strikes against their forces, terror training camps and lines of communications, [and] partnering with Libyan forces to deny safe havens for terrorists in Libya.”
The United States stands by its Libyan counterparts and supports their efforts to counter terror threats and defeat ISIS in Libya, he added. “We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing them from establishing a safe haven,” he said.
Iraq and Syria
In Iraq, Manning said, operations to liberate Ana and Rawah are ongoing, with about 10 square kilometers of Ana reported clear. ISIS executed 45 of its own fighters fleeing from Ana toward Rawah, he added, leaving bodies on the road as warnings to others.
Meanwhile, Manning said, the operation to liberate Hawija progressed with diminishing ISIS resistance, and about 60 percent of eastern Sharqat has been liberated.
“As of last night, he said, 66 villages in Hawija and Sharqat, totaling more than 880 square kilometers of the area, had been liberated and hold forces continue security operations in the Ninevah province.”
In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continued to make steady progress, gaining about 30 city blocks yesterday in the city of Raqqa and the surrounding area, Manning said. On the western axis, he added, the SDF maintain defensive positions around the fortified ISIS headquarters in the compound commonly called the national hospital. They also helped to evacuate civilians, Manning said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)