US moves drones over ISIL in Libya
WASHINGTON // The United States has moved surveillance drones into the skies over Libya to gather intelligence in case additional military strikes against ISIL militants are authorised.
The top US military officer told a Senate committee on Thursday that the Pentagon has shifted assets to Libya, based on recommendations from the US commander for Africa.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the decision was made more than a month ago to increase resources for the US Africa Command.
US officials say the decision allows the Pentagon to shift unmanned aircraft to Libya. Gen Dunford said he agrees with assessments that there are about 6,000 ISIL militants in Libya.
The rise of the militant group in the country has triggered broad concerns, particularly in Europe. Earlier this month, Army Gen David Rodriguez, head of the US Africa Command, said that the number of fighters has doubled in the last year, with aspirations to conduct attacks against the US and other nations in the West.
Gen Rodriguez said Libya militias have had some success in trying to stop ISIL from growing in Benghazi and are battling the group in Sabratha. But he said that decisions to provide more military assistance to the Libyans await a working national government.
The US has conducted two air strikes in Libya in recent months targeting ISIL fighters and leaders, but Gen Rodriguez said that those are limited to militants that pose an “imminent” threat to US interests. He said it is possible the US could do more as the Libyan government takes shape.
The increased surveillance would aid any effort to carry out more of those strikes.
* Associated Press
Updated: April 29, 2016 04:00 AM