US kills seven suspected IS fighters in southern Libya airstrike
"Our pursuit of ISIS-Libya and other terrorist networks degrades their ability to effectively conduct operations against the Libyan people," said Africa Command director of operations William Gayler, using an alternative acronym for IS.
His statement said the strike was carried out in coordination with the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, bringing the number of suspected IS members killed by US forces in Libya since September 19 to 43 people.
Three airstrikes were carried out on September 19, 24 and 26 in the area around Murzuq, an oasis town some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tripoli, killing eight, 11 and 17 militants respectively, according to Africom.
Libya's desert south lies outside the control of the GNA and of rival forces loyal to eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, although Haftar is alleged to have a presence there.
The porous border along southern Libya on top of the political chaos following the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has attracted many foreign mercenaries and militants fighting over the country’s oil-rich region.
A power struggle between the GNA and a parallel administration led by strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east has added to the lawlessness of the no-man’s land in the country's vast desert south.
Since the start of Haftar’s anti-GNA offensive to take Tripoli in April, analysts have warned of a security vacuum that could benefit IS and Al-Qaeda in other parts of the country.
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