The US has carried out air strikes against so-called “Islamic State” in Libya, killing several in the second set of strikes in recent days. Meanwhile, Rome unveiled plans to stem the flow of migrants through Libya.
The US strikes hit camps 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the coastal city of Sirte on Tuesday and were conducted in concert with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement on Thursday.
The Pentagon on Sunday announced the first air strikes in Libya since President Donald Trump took power in January, after which some wounded militants were arrested and some “materials” seized, Sadiq Al-Sour, head of investigations for the Libyan Attorney General’s office, told a news conference in Tripoli.
The previous US air strikes against “Islamic State” (IS) were carried out in early January under then-president Barack Obama.
“IS and Al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks; recruiting and facilitating the movement of foreign terrorist fighters; and raising and moving funds to support their operations,” AFRICOM said on Thursday.
Since the ousting of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed revolution in 2011, jihadis, arms dealers and human traffickers have gained a foothold in the country as multiple authorities and militias compete for power.
IS militants, for example, have set up a desert army composed of at least three brigades after they lost their stronghold of Sirte in 2016, a senior prosecutor said on Thursday.
Hundreds of militants are believed to have escaped from Sirte before or during the seven-month campaign to oust the jihadist group from the city, which it had taken control of in 2015.
Some of these militants have been setting up checkpoints on roads to the south and east of Sirte and claimed two deadly attacks against local forces.
US investigators said IS had established a “desert army” led by Libyan militant Al-Mahdi Salem Dangou, also known as Abu Barakat, Al-Sour said.
Not all roads lead to Rome
Italy wants to resettle a thousand migrants who are stranded in Libya around the world, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in Rome before flying to teh Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Over 600,000 people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East have arrived in Italy since 2014, many of them by sea from Libya.
A migrant quota scheme launched by the European Union ended on Wednesday after two years.
On Tuesday, Roberto Mignone, the representative for Libya with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spoke of negotiations in Tripoli to open a 1,000-place transit center for migrants considered vulnerable.
Separately, Al-Sour said authorities had arrested a senior IS commander who supervised the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt in Sirte in February 2015. Egypt launched air strikes in Libya a day after IS released a video showing the Copts being beheaded on a beach.
jbh/rc (AFP, Reuters)