U.S. airstrikes killed several dozen Islamic State fighters late Wednesday in two militant camps southwest of Sirte, Libya, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
“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,” Carter said Thursday, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Speaking on his last full day in office, Carter said the IS fighters targeted included “external plotters who were actively planning operations against our allies in Europe.”
He added the strikes should serve as a reminder to U.S. enemies that “while the world doesn’t rest from the [government] transition here in Washington, neither does the Department of Defense.”
WATCH: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Libya Airstrikes
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters IS fighters were attempting to “reorganize” at the remote camps since Sirte was no longer a safe operating location.It was not clear whether all the fighters at the camp had come from Sirte, Cook said, adding that the group “posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”
“This group had plans,” Cook said, “and that’s why we struck at this particular time.”
Two U.S. B-2 bombers dropped about 100 munitions on the two camps late Wednesday, according to Cook.A U.S. defense official told VOA drones were also used in the attack.
Defense officials said the two camps were in a very rural area and that no women or children were present.
Video of the militants before the strike showed them carrying weapons and mortars.
The strikes were authorized by President Barack Obama, in what likely will be the last military operation approved by the outgoing U.S. leader.
Carter said the attack was in conjunction with Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord as an extension of the U.S. operation to support Libyan forces who freed Sirte from IS control last year.
The U.S. air support operation in Libya started August 1 and formally ended December 19.At the operation’s start, the Pentagon said its mission was to enable the Government of National Accord to “make a decisive, strategic advance” and to help deny IS a haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and its allies.