A senior US army general has said that the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) has set up training camps in eastern Libya, but ruled out military action on the “nascent” camps in the immediate future.
Army General David Rodriguez, who heads US Africa Command, told reporters on Wednesday that there may be “a couple of hundred” fighters undergoing training at the sites, but details are sketchy.
“We’ll have to just continue to monitor and watch that carefully in the future to see what happens or whether it grows unabated,” Rodriguez said at the Pentagon.
Western countries have been increasingly worried that Libya’s political turmoil could provide fertile ground for Islamic fighters, but Rodriguez said that the training camps were not a potential target for American forces “right now”.
The development comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the momentum of the ISIL has been “halted” by the air strikes that the coalition of Western and Arab states launched against the group in August.
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday during the first high-level talks of a coalition of 60 nations fighting ISIL, Kerry said the military campaign by the US-led coalition would “continue for as long as it takes to defeat the self-declared jihadists”.
US President Barack Obama has pledged to degrade and destroy the armed group that seized territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria this year. The group has been accused of committing wartime atrocities against its opponents.
Libya has been plagued by instability since the overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently boasted of vows of allegiance from fighters in the country.
There was global outcry after a series of executions of Western hostages filmed and released online by the armed group, as well as gruesome videos depicting the beheadings of Syrian and Iraqi forces.
The ISIL has also attracted pledges of allegiance from Egypt-based the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group.