“Two terrorists” killed in Libya airstrike


US forces killed “two terrorists” in an airstrike in south-western Libya as part of efforts to deny militants a safe haven in the country’s vast desert.

The strike on the outskirts of Ubari was carried out in co-ordination with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli, US Africa Command said in a statement.
“At this time, we assess no civilians were killed in this strike,” the statement said.

A witness in Ubari told Reuters a large explosion was heard around midday on Saturday.

A house in the Fursan neighbourhood was hit and two bodies were found there, he said. Residents said the house was frequented by foreigners, according to the witness, who did not want to be identified for security reasons.

Pictures in local media showed a body on the ground with limbs and its head missing and a car with windows blown out and dozens of holes in one side.

US forces have carried out occasional air strikes targeting militants in Libya over the past few years.

They also launched an air campaign against Islamic State in the group’s former Libyan stronghold of Sirte in 2016, as local forces battled to oust jihadists from the city.

Last year, the United States said it killed dozens of suspects in airstrikes in desert areas south of Sirte as it tried to stop militants regrouping.

Saturday was the first time it acknowledged a strike as far south as Ubari, which lies about 700 km south of Tripoli, on the road to Libya’s border with Algeria.

Libyan and Western officials have long warned of the risk of militants linked to Islamic State and al-Qaeda using southern Libya as a base.
“We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing terrorists from establishing safe haven,” the US Africa Command statement said.

It gave no information about the identity of those targeted.

Libya slid into conflict after a 2011 Nato-backed uprising and has rival governments based in Tripoli and the east for the past four years.

Competing factions fought for influence in the south, where the Libyan National Army (LNA), aligned with the eastern-based government, recently stepped up military activity.

Communal violence has also flared in recent weeks in Sabha, north-east of Ubari, displacing hundreds of families.

On Saturday, LNA jets carried out strikes targeting Chadian mercenary forces south-east of Sabha, air force commander Mohamed Manfour said.

Instability in southern Libya has drawn in fighters from Chad and Sudan’s Darfur region who battled for opposing sides in Libya’s internal conflict.