Libyan forces battled to clear Islamic State insurgents from the western city of Sabratha on Thursday, in fighting that killed at least three soldiers and left another dozen wounded, officials said.
“A military operation has been started to wipe out the militants of Islamic State in Sabratha. At least three of our fighters have been killed and ten wounded,” Sabratha municipal council major Hussein al-Thwadi said.
Fighting began in Sabratha on Tuesday, when militants stormed into the city, beheading 11 local security men before retreating after clashes with local Sabratha brigades. Islamic State is also fighting in Benghazi to the east.
A military operation has been started to wipe out the militants of Islamic State in Sabratha. At least three of our fighters have been killed and ten wounded
Islamic State has gained ground rapidly in Libya in the last year, controlling the city of Sirte and attacking oil ports, as it takes advantage of the conflict between the country’s two rival governments and their armed factions.
U.S. warplanes hit Islamic State in Sabratha last week, a sign of growing Western engagement against the militant group in Libya as it expands beyond its original territory in Iraq and Syria.
Worried about the group’s spread, Western officials say they are discussing air strikes and special forces operations against Islamic State in Libya, where militants exploited a breakdown of order since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
The United Nations has been trying to bring the country’s rival factions together in a unity government. A presidential council has been formed, but hardliners are resisting a vote in Libya’s elected parliament to approve the new government.