With just 24 hours left in Obama's tenure, the U.S. president launched his final airstrike on ISIS after two B-2 bombers carried out airstrikes on two ISIS camps in Libya overnight, defense officials said Thursday, part of an operation targeting militants driven out last year from their coastal stronghold. The stealth bombers struck jihadis 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte, located halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi.
A map showing location of Sirte, Libya.
A U.S. official told NBC News that "several dozen" militants were believed to have been killed in the strikes
According to Reuters the mission was coordinated with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The Pentagon added that many of the targets had previously been inside Sirte until it was liberated from ISIS late last year.
ISIS was believed to have about 5,000 fighters in the area at the height of its influence, according to estimates from the head of the United States Africa Command. However, that number is now believed to be around 2,000.
US Precision airstrikes in support of Libyan government forces against ISIS were launched in August 2016.
Below is the statement released shortly after the bombing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Airstrikes in Libya:
In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Wednesday night destroying two ISIL camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests. While we are still evaluating the results of the strikes, the initial assessment indicates they were successful. This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control. The United States remains prepared to further support Libyan efforts to counter terrorist threats and to defeat ISIL in Libya. We are committed to maintaining pressure on ISIL and preventing them from establishing safe haven. These strikes will degrade ISIL's ability to stage attacks against Libyan forces and civilians working to stabilize Sirte, and demonstrate our resolve in countering the threat posed by ISIL to Libya, the United States and our allies.
Following the strikes, GNA officials said they would continue to clear the territories around Sirte of IS jihadists. The GNA mission to drive out IS militants from Sirte has frequently been aided by US airstrikes.
Islamic State gained a foothold in Libya after the country plunged into chaos following the NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.