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US ramps up airstrikes against ISIS in southwest Libya

United States forces conducted a third airstrike in just over a week against Islamic State in southwest Libya on Thursday, September 26, U.S. Africa Command said.

AFRICOM preliminarily assessed that “17 terrorists” were killed and that no civilians had been killed or wounded, a Friday statement said.

“We will continue to pursue ISIS-Libya and other terrorists in the region, denying them safe haven to coordinate and plan operations in Libya,” AFRICOM’s director of intelligence, Navy Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, said in the statement.

AFRICOM did not say where the strike took place, but it follows two, on September 24 and September 19, near the oasis town of Murzuq.

All three strikes were coordinated with Libya’s Government of National Accord, the U.N.-recognized administration headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend has said U.S. interests lie in ensuring groups like ISIS are not allowed to exploit the security vacuum resulting from Libya’s conflict, and met with Sarraj in Tunis in August to discuss increased cooperation.

ISIS has been active in Libya since its formation in 2014, but it reorganized last year, conducting a number of attacks against LNA targets and General Khalifa Haftar’s forces in 2018.

In October, Islamic State’s Libya affiliate claimed responsibility for a highly orchestrated attack in the town of al-Fuqaha, located in Jufra district in central Libya. According to the group, its fighters carried out an assault on the town and gained control over it for several hours.

Libya has been torn apart by intermittent civil war since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In April, Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army, which is affiliated with the rival Tobruk-based government in the east, to seize the western Libyan city of Tripoli, the GNA-controlled capital under Sarraj.

U.S. military personnel withdrew from Libya in April due to Haftar’s advance on Tripoli.

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