Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said the intelligence community estimates the number of ISIS fighters in Libya at “around 4 to 6,000.” He added that the number has “probably about doubled in the last 12 to 18 months, based on what their assessments were last year.”
Wracked by violence since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has become a haven for militant groups.
From 2014, the country was divided between two rival governments, one in the capitol of Tripoli and another in the east. A December deal created a Government of National Accord that the United Nations and Western governments hope can unite the country’s armed factions against ISIS and set Libya on a more stable course.
Rodriguez said several types of foreign fighters are flooding into Libya, many of whom come from other northern African countries.
“The foreign fighter flow goes back and forth across” North Africa, which generates a lot of the foreign fighters who “go all the way across to Syria and Iraq,” Rodriguez said.
He said there are also militants already in Libya who are now pledging allegiance to ISIS.
The U.S. continues to watch Libya closely, Rodriguez told reporters Thursday. “We are continuing to go after targets that pose an imminent threat to U.S. interests and personnel,” he said, citing a December air strike by a U.S. F-15 that killed ISIS leader Abu Nabil in eastern Libya and a March raid on the western city of Sabratha that left seven suspected ISIS fighters dead. “We continue to do that,” Rodriguez said.