Military Capabilities

US targets Islamists in Syria and Libya in final actions of Obama's presidency

20 January 2017
A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, starts up in preparation of a raid against the Islamic State in Libya on 19 January. Source: US Air Force

The United States conducted airstrikes against Islamist targets in Syria and Libya in the last military actions to be ordered by President Barack Obama before he left office on 20 January.

The strikes against Al-Qaeda leadership in Syria took place on 12 and 17 January, with a raid against Islamic State training camps in Libya taking place on 18 January. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), Abd al-Jalil al-Muslimi, an Al-Qaeda facilitator, was killed in the first airstrike near Saraqib, Syria, while Mohammad Habib Boussadoun al-Tunisi, an Al-Qaeda external operations leader, was killed in the second near Idlib, also in Syria. The air strike in Libya killed up to 80 Islamic State fighters in two remote desert camps approximately 45 km southwest of the coastal city of Sirte.

No further details relating to the Syrian strikes were disclosed, although Pentagon officials confirmed that the Libyan raid involved a pair of US Air Force (USAF) Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (Spirit of Pennsylvania and Spirit of Georgia) flying the mission from their homebase at Whiteman in Missouri, with at least one General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft following up afterwards. According to the officials, the B-2s dropped an unspecified number of GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided bombs (each aircraft can carry up to 80), while the Reaper fired at least one AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missile.

"While we are still evaluating the results of the strikes, the initial assessment indicates they were successful," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said, adding, "This action was authorised by the president as an extension of the successful operation the US military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from [Islamic State] control." Although the results are still being assessed, the Pentagon said that it believed up to 80 of the 100 fighters in the camps had been killed.

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