Libya urges Arab states to bomb ISIS targets in Sirte

Libya's internationally recognized government has asked fellow Arab states to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State group in the coastal city of Sirte, a cabinet statement said Saturday.

Dozens killed in fight for control of Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, residents say

Libyan militants endured intense fighting during the 2011 battle of Sirte. The government has conducted airstrikes over the area in recent days to combat the Islamic State. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

Libya's internationally recognized government has asked fellow Arab states to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the coastal city of Sirte, a cabinet statement said Saturday.

In the past few days, ISIS — also known as Daesh, the acronym for the group — has crushed a revolt by a Salafist Muslim group and armed residents trying to break its grip on the city. Dozens of people have been killed, according to residents.

The fighting typifies chaos in Libya, where two rival governments and parliaments, together with an assortment of Islamists, tribesmen and armed groups, are battling for control of cities and regions four years after the ousting of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"Libya's temporary government urges … the Arab brother states … to conduct airstrikes against positions of the Daesh terrorist group in Sirte," a cabinet statement said.

ISIS has exploited a security vacuum to expand in Libya as it did in Syria and Iraq.

The official government has been based in eastern Libya since losing control of the capital Tripoli a year ago to a rival group, which set up its own administration. Neither government has control of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown.

Both governments have conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Sirte in recent days but their capabilities are very limited, relying on outdated warplanes and helicopters from the Gadhafi era, which lack precision guns.

It was not clear how Arab states would respond. An Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in Yemen in late March in an effort to stop the Iran-allied Houthi movement spreading across the country from the north.