TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally recognised government launched a military operation on Monday against remnants of the Islamic State group, it said.
Local forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) ousted Islamic State from its stronghold in the city of Sirte in late 2016, helped by U.S. air strikes, but Libyan officials say it retained a presence in desert camps and sleeper cells in western Libyan towns and cities.
“At dawn today, Monday, a military operation under the name of Storm of the Homeland was launched that aims to pursue the remnants of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist organisation,” said Mohamed al-Sallak, spokesman for Fayez Seraj, prime minister of the GNA.
The operation is being carried out by counter-terrorism forces in an area from 60 km (40 miles) east of the city of Misrata to the outskirts of five other towns: Bani Walid, Tarhouna, Msallata, Al-Khoms, and Zliten.
He gave no further details.
The GNA has limited authority over military forces and armed groups in western Libya. The east of the country is controlled by separate forces under military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for occasional attacks in recent months and continues to be targeted by sporadic U.S. air strikes in desert areas.
Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Robin Pomeroy