An AV-8B Harrier takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on Dec. 5, 2016, conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan government against ISIS targets in Sirte, Libya. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Wilkes)

U.S. Strikes Qaeda Target in Southwest Libya, Expanding Shadow War There

The United States military carried out its first ever drone strike against Qaeda militants in southern Libya this weekend, signaling a possibly significant expansion of the American counterterrorism campaign in the North African nation.

Until now, the Pentagon had focused its counterterrorism strikes in Libya almost exclusively on Islamic State fighters and operatives farther north — eight since President Trump took office. In 2016, the military conducted nearly 500 airstrikes in the coastal city of Sirte over several months to destroy the Islamic State’s stronghold there.

But the attack Saturday that the military’s Africa Command said had killed two militants — later identified by a spokeswoman as belonging to al-Qaeda’s branch in northwestern Africa — took place in the country’s southwest, a notorious haven for a deadly mix of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups that also operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Mali and Algeria.

Read more at The New York Times

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