Two United States Air Force B-2 bombers attacked Islamic State training camps in Libya last night (19 January). The attacks included strikes by armed reaper drones flying from a base in Sicily that reportedly killed more than 80 militants. Some of the militants who died in the air strikes on camps outside ISIS’s former North African stronghold of Sirte were involved in plotting terrorist attacks in Europe, the Pentagon said.
The attacks were one of the final commands of President Obama as commander in chief. “We need to strike ISIL everywhere they show up,” Ashton B. Carter, the departing US defense secretary, said and added that “We know that some of the ISIL operatives in Libya were involved in plotting attacks in Europe.” Mr. Carter also said that the strikes had been directed against some of ISIL’s external plotters. “They certainly are people who … were actively plotting operations in Europe, and may also have been connected with some attacks that have already occurred in Europe,” he said.
Libyan forces retook Sirte in early December after an almost seven-month battle in a major blow to ISIS that left the group without any territory in Libya. Libyan authorities, however, said that hundreds of militants might have escaped before the battle or in its early stages and that local ISIS leaders have spoken on regrouping outside the city. Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord commented that the strikes were “preemptive steps to foil attempts” by Islamic State to prepare new attacks on Sirte and other areas of the country.
The United States have carried out about 500 air strikes in Libya against Islamic State targets in and around the city of Sirte between August and December last year. It is not yet clear whether Donald Trump, who takes office as US president today (20 January), will continue with the current US policy in Libya.