US announces end of Libya operations following IS' fall

US announces end of Libya operations following IS' fall
After nearly 500 air strikes on Libya's Sirte, the US has announced an end to operations after the defeat of the Islamic State group in the coastal city.
2 min read
21 December, 2016
Sirte has been badly ruined by fighting over the past six years [AFP]

The US has officially ended operations on the formerly Islamic State group-held city of Sirte in Libya, officials announced Tuesday, following the official defeat of the militants.

US war planes joined Operation Odyssey Lightning to help local forces push IS militants from the coastal city of Sirte during an offensive which began on 1 August. 

They aided the internationally-recognised government troops battle their way into the city with air raids, which led to their final defeat.

"In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh (IS) out of Sirte," the US military's Africa Command said in a statement.

US drones, gunships and warplanes had hammered IS positions, conducting a total of 495 strikes.

"We are proud to have supported this campaign to eliminate ISIL's hold over the only city it has controlled outside Iraq and Syria," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

Officials said the US would continue to strike IS jihadis if the Libyan unity government asked for help in doing so.

Libyan unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj on Saturday announced that military operations in Sirte were done, but IS still has fighters in Libya and on Sunday conducted a suicide attack in Benghazi.

The fall of Sirte - Muammar Gaddafi's home town located 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli - is a major setback for IS, which has also faced military defeats in Syria and Iraq.

Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-backed ousting of the longtime dictator in 2011, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth.