Airstrikes launched from unidentified warplanes targeted the southern and western region of the Mediterranean port city of Sirte in Libya, which has become the de facto base for the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) wing in the North African country, a witness told Reuters.
“We heard the warplanes around midnight, then there were massive explosions,” declared the witness on condition of anonymity.
There were no casualties immediately reported.
The airstrikes marked the second time ISIS was targeted this month in Sirte.
A photograph being distributed on social media, which appears to have been taken around dawn Thursday, shows a large cloud of smoke stemming from an unidentifiable position in the distance, noted the Libya Herald.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack — neither of Libya’s rival governments nor warring factions.
“The inevitable speculation will be that the warplanes were not Libyan,” reports The Libya Herald.
It has reportedly become difficult for Sirte residents to communicate with the outside world since ISIS took control of the mobile phone towers that provide service for the city.
“The terrorists have rarely been slow in coming forward with news about assaults on their territory,” reported the Libya Herald on Thursday.
Libya has been engulfed in a conflict between two rival governments and their armed factions since Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by Western-backed rebels, opening the door for ISIS to gain ground.
ISIS has taken control of Sirte, where it has secured a base for its Libyan component. Libyan officials and analysts have warned that ISIS could use the coastal city to launch attacks against Europe, namely Italy.
Sirte, which sits close to Qaddafi’s birthplace, was the site of the last battle in 2011, when rebels from the city of Misurata joined the fight that destroyed much of the coastal city. Ultimately, those rebels captured and executed Qaddafi.
Libya, four years after Qaddafi was executed, finds itself without a western-backed government after the rival factions refused to endorse an interim unity government brokered by the United Nations.
Western governments back the UN peace agreement to form a unity administration between the opposing factions, fearing that unrest is pushing Libya closer to becoming a failed state.
“For months, United Nations negotiators have been racing to settle a feud between competing governments in Libya, a rivalry that has crippled the oil industry, provided a foothold for the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] and plunged the country into civil war,” reported The Washington Post on Oct. 20.
“Libya [on Oct. 20] found itself with no recognized government at all, after the mandate of one of two rival parliaments — the only one recognized by Western powers — lapsed before lawmakers could endorse a proposed unity government,” added the report.