Cairo – The United States Department of Defense announced on Monday the launching of the first U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.
The U.S. has launched airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold in Sirte, Libya, the Pentagon said on Monday, in a major expansion of the American campaign against the group.
The strikes were requested by Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and were authorized by President Barack Obama following a recommendation by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Reuters reported.
In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that Libya’s Western-backed unity government had requested the air support as forces under its command battle to reclaim the coastal city of Sirte, which was seized by ISIS last year.
Cook added that “additional U.S. strikes will continue to target ISIS in Sirte in order to enable [Libya’s unity government] to make a decisive, strategic advance.”
Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-backed unity government Fayez Serraj said that his government requested U.S. assistance to help the advance of local forces in Sirte.
Speaking in a video statement, Serraj noted that foreign military involvement would remain limited in his country’s fight against the terrorist group.
Serraj added that the presidential council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) has decided to “activate” its participation in the international coalition against ISIS and requested the United States to carry out targeted air strikes on ISIS.
However, Serraj stressed that foreign military operations were limited to a definite schedule.
“I want to assure you that these operations are limited to a specific timetable and do not exceed Sirte and its suburbs,” he said.
The prime minister went on to say that foreign assistance on the ground would only consist of logistical and technical support. “We repeat from here our rejection of interference by any nation or attempts to violate Libya’s sovereignty,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on its website that it has documented 41 civilian casualties, including 12 deaths and 29 injuries, during the conduct of hostilities across Libya during the month of July 2016. Victims included 4 children killed and 4 injured, 8 men killed and 16 injured and 8 women injured, according to the statement.
The statement added that the majority of civilian deaths were caused by gunshots (5 deaths and 2 injured), while the next leading cause of death was vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (3 deaths and 4 injured) and explosive remnants of war (3 deaths), then air strikes (1 deaths and 9 injured) and then shelling (14 injured).
UNSMIL documented 5 deaths and 18 injured in Benghazi, 4 deaths and 11 injured in Derna and 3 deaths in Kufra, it added.
The statement also said that the Libyan National Army/Libyan Air Force carried out airstrikes in Derna, which led to the death and injury of civilians (1 killed, 9 injured), while the Derna Mujahedin Shura Council was responsible for the death of 3 civilians.