U.S. forces conducted a series of airstrikes against several Islamic State targets in Libya, including the two tanks that were targeting citizens and Libyan forces.
The five strikes took place Monday in and around targets located in Sirte, ISIS’s de facto Libyan capital located along the country’s northern coastline. One of the primary targets was an ISIS T-72 tank hidden between trees and buildings in the al-Dular neighborhood.
ISIS “had used it repeatedly to beat back [government] GNA forces, against civilians,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, during a press briefing at the Pentagon Tuesday, “and it represented a challenge and a problem for [GNA fighters] to be able to get into the city.”
GNA, or the Government of National Accord, is the U.N. and U.S.-backed Libyan government created earlier this year. GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his cabinet based themselves in Tripoli on March 30 and have been attempting to destroy ISIS ever since.
GNA forces were able to push into al-Dular shortly after the T-72 was destroyed. The airstrikes also destroyed a second T-72, two military vehicles, a fighting position, and two construction vehicles.
Davis insisted that the new airstrikes were conducted at the request of the GNA, and will be limited to aiding the retaking of Sirte from ISIS.
“This is a finite period of time and a very finite mission,” Davis said, insisting the operations would likely last weeks, as opposed to months. He noted that while the U.S. has counter-terrorism authority to strike ISIS, the current mission is a support mission separate from counter-terror operations.
It was believed that ISIS had as many as 5,000 fighters in Libya at the beginning of this year. Davis was unable to give an exact figure as to how many fighters remain in Sirte at present, but the Pentagon estimated less than 1,000 terrorists remain in the city.
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