WASHINGTON — U.S. forces carried out two precision airstrikes against ISIS fighters on Tuesday killing several fighters, according to a press release from U.S. Africa Command.
The strikes hit roughly 100 miles outside of Sirte.
It is the second series of strikes carried out by U.S. forces in less than a week, and the first series of major military action against the terror group since U.S. B-2 bombers struck a large ISIS camp outside of Sirte in January.
On Friday, unmanned U.S. aircraft conducted six airstrikes against ISIS fighters camped out in the desert 150 miles outside of Sirte.
Those strikes killed 17 fighters and several tactical vehicles.
“Since late 2014, Libya’s under-governed space and internal instability provided ISIS a safe haven to organize, train and equip fighters,” said Navy Lt. Commander Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for AFRICOM.
Libya has been gripped by internal strife since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Internal fighting between the UN-backed government led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar has added to recent instability in the war-torn country.
ISIS has used the chaos to its advantage, even occupying and controlling the large city of Sirte for a period of time.
“Before Sirte’s fall in 2016, ISIS was the largest province outside of the group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and ISIS propaganda encouraged individuals to travel to Libya,” Falvo told Military Times.
Under the aid of U.S. airpower, forces loyal to the UN-backed government purged ISIS fighters from the Libyan city in a U.S.-backed operation coined Operation Odyssey Lighting.
“Losing Sirte was a significant setback for ISIS, and the group could no longer claim to be holding territory,” Falvo said.
However, despite losing the city, “ISIS retains the capability to strike local security forces, critical infrastructure, and civilian targets,” Falvo added.
“It’s a great example how removing ISIS from cities doesn’t inherently remove the threat of external operations,” said Jennifer Cafarella, an expert on the war in Syria for the Institute for the Study of War.
ISIS’ Libya operations were recently featured in a propaganda video released by the group in September showing how its fighters live and work in the desert.
“ISIS’s ability to destabilize Libya’s internal security remains an ongoing threat to local forces and Western regional targets,” Falvo said.
The airstrikes were carried out in coordination Libyan Government of National Accord.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.