SAS elite soldiers soon to land on Libyan soil
A CRACK team of Special Forces are in Libya preparing the ground for up to 1,000 British troops who have been drafted in to tackle Islamic State (ISIS).
The jihadi group has sought to expand its influence in the lawless north African state in a bid to seize control of Libya’s highly lucrative oil fields.
The British deployment of half a dozen elite SAS soldiers will form part of a 6,000-strong army of Americans and Europeans, led by the Italian army.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed last month that as many as 1,000 soldiers were being readied for deployment to Libya to deal with the proliferation of ISIS – also known as Daesh – since the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011.
A major coalition offensive is planned for the coming months, with military chiefs hoping it could finally yield a breakthrough on the depraved terror organisation.
A senior military source told the Daily Mirror: “This Coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.
“We have an advance force on the ground who will make an assessment of the situation and identify where attacks should be made and highlight the threats to our forces.”
In December, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, suggested British air strikes could be needed to stop ISIS if it attempted to get hold of valuable oil fields in Libya.
He warned the terror group was shifting to Libya from Syria, where it is already being targeted by international forces including the UK.
Confirmation of the military deployment comes as Islamic State militants attacked the Es Sider oil export terminal, killing two guards and setting an oil storage tank on fire.
The tank – said to be holding 420,000 barrels of oil – was hit by a rocket during the fighting, causing a huge fire, and two ISIS suicide car bombers then attacked the area around the port.
Libya descended into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and rival governments and the militias that support them are fighting for control of the North African state and its energy reserves.
Es Sider and nearby Ras Lanuf oil ports, between Sirte and Benghazi on coast, have been shut for a year.
ISIS has taken advantage of the security vacuum to grab territory and are threatening to advance from Sirte, which it controls.
So far the group has failed to take control of any Libyan oil installations but has done so in Syria.