Two United States Air Force B-2 bombers attacked Islamic State training camps outside of Surt, Libya, overnight, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Military analysts were assessing the impact of the strikes, but officials said it was possible that dozens of Islamic State fighters may have been killed.
The Pentagon’s Africa Command announced on Dec. 19 the official end of air operations against the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, in Surt, the group’s coastal stronghold, after conducting 495 strikes against truck bombs, heavy guns, tanks and command bunkers there.
But the need to carry out additional strikes reflected the resilience of the Islamic State in Libya. While the group was driven out of Surt last month, the Islamic State still has several hundred fighters who have dispersed across Libya and pose a threat to the country, its neighbors and potentially Europe, according to American officials and the Africa Command.
Jonathan Winer, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Libya, told Congress in November that the Islamic State, as it suffered defeats in Surt at the hands of Libyan fighters and American warplanes, was most likely forming cells around the country. He called on Libyans to unite behind the country’s fledgling Government of National Accord to combat the terrorists.
A recent analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a policy organization in Washington, found that Islamic State militants operating as “desert brigades” south of Surt had ambushed Libyan military positions, disrupted supply lines with explosives and established checkpoints on key roads. The Islamic State is recruiting foreign fighters into southern Libya and is most likely relying on the same havens used by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to the analysis.
The two B-2 bombers flew a round-trip mission of about 34 hours from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and dropped satellite-guided bombs on the training camps, military officials said.