Raids in Libya's Sirte in US national interest: Obama

AFP , Tuesday 2 Aug 2016

President Barack Obama (Photo: AP)

President Barack Obama defended a two-day-old US air campaign against the Islamic State group in its Libyan stronghold of Sirte, saying defeating the Islamist militants there was in the US national interest.

The US military on Tuesday launched a new round of air strikes on the city in the turbulent North African country, following similar strikes the day before, a US defense official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had now conducted "about seven strikes" in Sirte.

The Pentagon on Monday announced it had launched air strikes at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).

"It is in America's national security interest in our fight against ISIL to make sure (the GNA are) able to finish the job," Obama told a White House news conference, using an IS acronym.

"We're working in partnership with them to assure that IS does not get a stronghold in Libya, even as Libya begins what is going to be a long process to establish a functioning government and security system."

The Tripoli-based GNA launched an operation in May to retake Sirte, the hometown of slain leader Muammar Gaddafi which has been under militants control since June 2015.

While the Pentagon had carried out two previous air attacks on high-value IS group targets in Libya, Monday's action marked the first US strikes in Sirte itself, and the first salvos in an open-ended air campaign.

The GNA's press office said Tuesday that new strikes had occurred against IS group positions in Sirte, destroying a rocket launcher and a vehicle.

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