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Monday 22 January 2018

US planes strike multiple targets in Libya

The site of the Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, Libya (Sabratha Municipal Council/AP)
The site of the Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, Libya (Sabratha Municipal Council/AP)

US planes have struck multiple targets in Libya, according to a American official.

The air strikes targeted what the official described as an Islamic State training camp and a senior extremist leader.

The official did not identify the leader or the area where the air strikes were conducted.

President Barack Obama last week directed his national security team to bolster counter-terrorism efforts in Libya while also pursuing diplomatic possibilities for solving its political crisis and forming a government of national unity.

While IS emerged in other places, including Afghanistan, Libya is seen as its key focus outside Syria and Iraq.

The US military has been closely monitoring IS movements in Libya, and small teams of military personnel have moved in and out of the country over a period of months. British, French and Italian special forces have also been in Libya helping with aerial surveillance, mapping and intelligence gathering in several cities, including Benghazi in the east and Zintan in the west, according to two Libyan military officials who are co-ordinating with them.

US officials predicted early this month that it would be weeks or longer before US special forces would be sent, citing the need for more consultation with European allies. Additional intelligence would help refine targets for any sort of military strikes, but surveillance drones are in high demand elsewhere, including in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adding to the concern in Washington and Europe is evidence that the number of IS fighters in Libya is increasing - now believed to be up from about 2,000 to 5,000 - even as the group's numbers in Syria and Iraq are shrinking under unrelenting US and coalition air strikes.

Press Association

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