In Brief

US strikes at Islamic State in Libya

Air raid on terrorist group's positions in Sirte came at request of unity government and was authorised by Barack Obama

The US has launched air strikes on Islamic State forces in Libya following a request from the country's UN-backed government. 

The action is "the first direct US involvement in the fierce battle" around the coastal city of Sirte, says the Washington Post, and is "a significant expansion of the American campaign" against IS.

The strikes were successful, according to Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who leads the Libyan Government of National Accord. 

"The first air strikes were carried out at specific locations in Sirte today causing severe losses to enemy ranks," he said.

The Pentagon confirmed US involvement in the raid, saying it had been authorised by President Barack Obama and is "consistent with our approach to combating IS by working with capable and motivated local forces".

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook also said "additional US strikes" would be carried out to allow local ground forces to make a "decisive, strategic advance" on the city after weeks of heavy fighting.

Libyan forces began their campaign to re-take Sirte three months ago. The city became an IS stronghold after the removal of Muammar Gaddafi's government in 2011.

According to the Libya Herald, "354 Libyan troops have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded since the start of operations against Islamic State in Sirte".

The involvement of the US in an ongoing air campaign in Libya may work in the short term, says BBC correspondent Rana Jawad, but the situation in the country is likely to remain quite volatile for some time. 

"The wider military and militia forces across Libya are still embroiled in local rivalry," she says. "In the aftermath of campaigns of this kind, the US, and other countries involved in Libya, will probably be left with more questions than answers over the stability of the country and the local forces they backed."

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