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US conducts more air strikes against Islamic State in Libya

IS has grown bolder, setting up temporary checkpoints, attacking local forces and taking over village mosques
Libya has been rocked by chaos since 2011 demise of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi (Reuters)

The US military carried out more air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, killing several militants, the US Africa Command said on Thursday.

The strikes hit about 160km southeast of the Mediterranean city of Sirte on Tuesday, AFRICOM said in a statement.

Sirte lies near the centre of Libya's coastline, between regions controlled by rival armed factions. Libya has been chaotic since the 2011 demise of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, which was backed by NATO.

IS has grown bolder in recent weeks, setting up temporary checkpoints, attacking local forces and taking over village mosques, Libyan officials say.

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Forces loyal to east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar said in early September that they had carried out air strikes against the militants in the area of Ain Tarqft, between Sirte and the town of Waddan, 230km to the south.

Both Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces from the port city of Misrata, which led the campaign in Sirte last year, said they are making frequent patrols to monitor IS movements in the area.

On Sunday, the Pentagon announced the first air strikes in Libya since President Donald Trump took power in January.

Prior to that, the last known US air strikes were carried out in early January under then President Barack Obama, targeting two IS camps where militants were suspected of actively planning operations in Europe.

IS "and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks; recruiting and facilitating the movement of foreign terrorist fighters; and raising and moving funds to support their operations," AFRICOM said on Thursday.

Militants, arms dealers and human traffickers have also gained a foothold in the lawless North African country as multiple authorities and dozens of militias vie for power.