U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers carried out air strikes against a couple of ISIS camps outside of Sirte, Libya, on Wednesday night, seeking to neutralize extremists who had escaped the former ISIS stronghold of Sirte, U.S. defense officials said on Thursday.
Two U.S. defense officials said the strikes were carried out 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, southwest of the central coastal city of Sirte against two camps and done in cooperation with Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord. They said there were no women or children in the camps.
The officials were not authorized to speak in advance of an expected Pentagon announcement and confirmed the strikes on condition of anonymity.
The strikes were carried out overnight and were authorized by President Barack Obama, marking perhaps the final use of military force by a wartime president who intervened in Libya in 2011 as part of a coalition that ultimately toppled dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
One of the officials said initial reports showed dozens of militants were killed in the strikes with more than 100 precision guided munitions dropped.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, in a statement on Thursday, confirmed the U.S. military conducted successful strikes.
“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,” Cook said, ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.
Libyan forces backed by U.S. air strikes finished clearing the last ISIS holdout in Sirte last month after a battle of nearly seven months for the militant group’s former North African stronghold. The United States carried out about 470 air strikes against ISIS targets in Sirte during that campaign.
The loss of Sirte was a major blow for ISIS, leaving the group without any territory in Libya, although it retains an active presence in parts of the vast country.
The jihadist group took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into its most important base outside the Middle East and attracting large numbers of foreign fighters into the city. It imposed its ultra-hardline rule on residents, and extended its control along about 250 km (155 miles) of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.
Since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 by rebel forces backed by NATO air strikes, Libya has slipped deeper into chaos.