U.S. ready to resume air strikes in Libya if needed: Pentagon

Smoke rises following an air strike as Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government gather after they captured a new area from Islamic State militants in Sirte, Libya. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is prepared to carry out more air strikes against Islamic State militants in Sirte if requested by Libya’s U.N.-backed government, even though the militant group no longer controls much territory there, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Since August the United States has carried out more than 350 air strikes against Islamic State at the request of the Government of National Accord (GNA). However, none have been carried out since Oct. 31, officials said.

“If additional air strikes are needed, we will be prepared to deliver those air strikes,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said at a news conference.

Islamic State took full control of Sirte, a city of some 80,000 inhabitants, in early 2015. Its loss would leave the jihadist group without any territorial control in Libya.

Libyan forces have the remaining militants in Sirte surrounded in part of the Ghiza Bahriya neighborhood. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, estimated that only a few blocks of the city were controlled by a few dozen Islamic State fighters.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by James Dalgleish