Misratan soldiers battling IS militants tell MEE that well-armed US troops are conducting patrols and coordinating with senior local commanders
US military personnel are carrying out patrols and observations in Misrata, according to Libyan soldiers on the ground, amid growing reports of Western special forces engaged in the battle to remove Islamic State from the central city of Sirte.
“There are some US troops on the ground here, near the frontline,” one Misratan soldier, Ibrahim, told MEE. “Everyone here has seen them, but they are not fighting, they are just observing and doing patrols.”
He said there were at least six or seven personnel, who he described as well-armed and well-equipped, with three Japanese vehicles that were noticeably superior to the usual Toyota Hilux trucks favoured by the Libyan armed forces. The US personnel were in occasional communication with one or two very senior Misratan commanders, Ibrahim added.
Mohamed Al-Ghossri, the spokesman for the Misrata military operations room, said he was unable to confirm or deny any US military presence, because he had not personally seen them.
He did, however, plead for the international community to support Libya’s fight against IS, which now controls over 300km of central coastline, and numerous towns and villages.
“Until now, we have had only moral support from the international community, but we need logistical support,” he said. “We particularly need night vision equipment because we are fighting a very dangerous and unpredictable enemy, who mobilise mainly at night.”
He said the weapons Misratan troops were using – mainly from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s stockpiles, and often dating back to the 1980s – were inadequate for fighting IS, which appears to have extensive supplies of high-tech weaponry and ammunition.
“We want technical support from the international community so we can defend the Mediterranean basin, as well as our borders against further infiltration of IS fighters,” he explained.