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American Airstrikes Destroy Group Of ISIS Military Camps In Libya


The U.S. carried out airstrikes in Libya late last night. The Pentagon said it destroyed two camps of Islamic State fighters, part of a continued effort to halt the spread of the militant group. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: In his final appearance before the Pentagon Press Corps, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the renewed airstrikes in Libya.


ASH CARTER: Initial estimates indicate that the airstrikes killed more than 80 ISIL fighters, many of whom had converged there after fleeing from local partner forces who had cleared Sirte last month with our help.

WELNA: Six weeks earlier at a U.S. air base in Aviano, Italy, Carter had announced with little fanfare that the U.S. had concluded its operations in Sirte, the central Libyan city some 30 miles to the north of where the airstrikes were carried out. Although those operations were billed as having successfully expelled any remaining fighters with the Islamic State, Carter warned that the U.S. could be back.


CARTER: We're always prepared to take action against those who are threatening the United States.

WELNA: To carry out the Wednesday night strikes, two B-2 Stealth Bombers flew from their base in western Missouri on a nearly 12,000-mile round trip that lasted more than 30 hours. Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook said commanders had requested the planes for their ability to loiter over their targets.


PETER COOK: The use of the B-2 demonstrates the capability of the United States to deliver decisive, precision force through the Air Force's Global Strike Command over a great distance.

WELNA: Cook said the planes dropped around 100 precision-guided bombs on two camps.


COOK: And if there's a message sent to terrorists around the world, so be it. This was a military operation specifically targeting ISIL. And it demonstrates the capabilities of the United States, the ability for us to reach anywhere in the world and to strike a blow to terrorists who threaten us.

WELNA: Defense Secretary Carter, for his part, said some of the operatives at the camps had been involved in plotting attacks against American allies in Europe. He said the U.S. is winning the fight against the Islamic State and expressed confidence that fight will continue.


CARTER: I'm certain that the United States and our coalition and local partners will continue to build on the results we've achieved and ultimately destroy the fact and the idea of a state based on ISIL's barbaric ideology.

WELNA: Carter will relinquish his post to General James Mattis after the Senate confirms Mattis as expected tomorrow. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.