The United States launched several airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group inside Libya in response to requests from the United Nations-backed Libyan government for military support.
The U.S. strikes targeted the ISIS stronghold of Sirte along the Libyan coast. Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who heads the U.N.-backed presidency council, said in a statement Monday that no American ground forces would be deployed.
"Today, at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord [GNA], the United States military conducted precision airstrikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement, using the Obama administration’s preferred acronym for ISIS.
Sarraj said in a television address that the strikes had caused "heavy losses" in the port city.
President Obama authorized the attack on the recommendation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Military Times reported.
The operation is expected to span multiple days.
"The presidency council, as the general army commander, has made a request for direct U.S. support to carry out specific airstrikes," Sarraj said. "The first strikes started today in positions in Sirte, causing major casualties."
ISIS has an estimated 5,000 fighters in Sirte, the head of U.S. Africa Command said in the spring. U.S. military officials now peg the number of ISIS fighters in the city at around 2,000 following months of Libyan military attacks.