U.S. kills 8 Islamic State fighters in Libya airstrike

The U.S. military killed eight Islamic State fighters yesterday in the first recorded airstrike against the group in more than one year.

The strike took place on Sept. 19 near the town of Murzuq in southwestern Libya, a region where the Islamic State’s Libya province (ISL) is known to have operated in the past.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) provided few details on the strike, other than the date, location, and number of fighters killed. In a press release, AFRICOM said that the strike was launched to “eliminate terrorist leaders and fighters and to disrupt terrorist activity.”

Given that eight fighters were killed, it is likely that AFRICOM hit a fixed location, such as a training camp, a military encampment, a logistics or communications node, or perhaps a convoy of fighters. Strikes that target key leaders or operatives as they travel in vehicles usually result in far fewer casualties.

The US military last targeted the Islamic State’s operations in Libya on Aug. 28, 2018. One ISL operative was killed in an attack that took place near Bani Walid.

The last recorded strike by U.S. forces in Libya occurred near Al Uwaynat on Nov. 28, 2018. Eleven Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) fighters were killed during the operation.

While the ISL and AQIM are currently not at the forefront of the fighting in Libya, which remains locked in a civil war since Muammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011, the two terror groups maintain a presence in the country. Both ISL and AQIM are seeking to capitalize on insecurity in Libya and use the lawless borders of Niger and Algeria to sow chaos in the region.