In an interview with the Associated Press on 17 February, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, said that the US obtained significant intelligence from the Islamic State (ISIS) camps, located 45km south of Sirte, which were hit by US airstrikes on 19 January. A senior US military official said that several ISIS fighters who survived the airstrikes (around 90 fighters are believed to have been killed) had been taken for interrogation by Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces, who are nominally allied with the Government of National Accord (GNA). The official said the intelligence collected at the ISIS camps confirmed that the fighters had direct communication with the core ISIS group in Syria. It also provided information on how they move through tunnels in the country.
Gen. Waldhauser told The Associated Press, “We did get some actionable intelligence and we continue to work with that and develop what we can from it.” He said the US military had been watching the camps since late last autumn but that the fighters move around southern Libya and do not stay anywhere for long. He said of the strike, “It was successful from the standpoint that we really did, I think, send a very strong signal to the ISIL that remains in Libya that we will watch you and we will come after you.” Gen. Waldhauser estimated that there are still “a couple of hundred” ISIS members left in Libya.
Following the eviction of ISIS from Sirte in December, the process of resettling displaced Sirte residents is ongoing. On 18 February, one hundred more families began returning to residential areas 1 and 2 in the centre of the city. Control of Sirte remains highly contested between the GNA’s Misratan-led forces and LNA supporters, including the Salafist 604 brigade which is currently securing the city. The whereabouts of Sirte’s mayor and two assistants two weeks after their abduction en route to Tripoli remains unknown.
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