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Air strike targets suspected Islamic State convoy in Libya: town official

Two men stand next to destroyed buildings after clashes between military forces loyal to Libya's eastern government and Islamist fighters, in Benghazi, Libya, February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Aircraft attacked a convoy carrying suspected Islamic State militants near the northwestern Libyan town of Bani Walid early on Sunday, an official said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although both the United States and Libyan government forces have launched air strikes on jihadists in recent months.

A Pentagon official said the U.S. military was not involved in the action but provided no other details. U.S. sources said later that no other U.S. government agencies were involved.

Three huge explosions rocked the area around dawn, the member of Bani Walid’s municipal council told Reuters.

People living in Ras al-Tbel, about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Bani Walid, had seen the same convoy of up to 15 vehicles carrying the black flags of Islamic State over the past two days, the official added.

It was not immediately clear if the convoy was hit.

Jihadist groups have taken advantage of political chaos to expand their presence in Libya, and fighters loyal to Islamic State have taken control of the coastal city of Sirte, about 260 km (160 miles) east of Bani Walid.

Western officials say they are discussing air strikes and special forces operations in Libya against the group that is seeking to set up a cross-border Islamic caliphate and has already seized large areas of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

U.S. aircraft attacked a suspected Islamic State training camp on the outskirts of the western Libyan city of Sabratha this month, and launched two more air strikes against jihadist commanders in Libya last year.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney