US military formally ends anti-ISIL operation in Libya’s Sirte
WASHINGTONThe U.S. military has officially ended operations in a former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bastion in Libya, officials announced Dec. 20.
The Pentagon had launched Operation Odyssey Lightning to help local forces push the jihadists from the coastal city of Sirte on Aug. 1.
“In partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the operation succeeded in its core objective of enabling GNA-aligned forces to drive Daesh [ISIL] out of Sirte,” the U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement.
U.S. drones, gunships and warplanes had hammered ISIL positions, conducting a total of 495 strikes.
“We are proud to have supported this campaign to eliminate ISIL’s hold over the only city it has controlled outside Iraq and Syria,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
Officials said the United States would continue to strike ISIL jihadists if the Libyan unity government asked for help in doing so.
Unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj on Dec. 17 announced that military operations in Sirte were done, but ISIL still has fighters in Libya and on Dec. 18 conducted a suicide attack in Benghazi.
The fall of Sirte - Kadhafi’s home town located 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli - is a major setback for ISIL, which has also faced military defeats in Syria and Iraq.
Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-backed ousting of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth.