An image taken from jihadist media outlet Wilayat Trablus and provided courtesy of the US-based monitoring agency SITE Intelligence Group on June 9, 2015 allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters running in Sirte
An image taken from jihadist media outlet Wilayat Trablus and provided courtesy of the US-based monitoring agency SITE Intelligence Group on June 9, 2015 allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters running in Sirte © - SITE Intelligence Group/AFP/File
An image taken from jihadist media outlet Wilayat Trablus and provided courtesy of the US-based monitoring agency SITE Intelligence Group on June 9, 2015 allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters running in Sirte
AFP
Last updated: February 5, 2016

IS forces rise in Libya, but drop in Iraq and Syria, US official says

Libya has seen an influx of Islamic State extremists in recent months, while the number of jihadists in Iraq and Syria has dropped by several thousand, a US defense official said Thursday.

About 5,000 IS fighters are now in Libya, the official said, up from earlier estimates of between 2,000 and 3,000.

The official added the United States now believes there to be between 19,000 and 25,000 IS fighters in Iraq and Syria, down from a previous count of between 20,000 to 33,000.

The release of the updated fighter tallies comes as the adminstration of President Barack Obama faces growing calls for the US military to step up actions against the IS group in Libya.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said IS fighters had seen their ranks thinned in Iraq and Syria by the ongoing US-led coalition air campaign, while tightened travel restrictions have also had an impact.

It's a "combination of battlefield deaths, desertions, internal disciplinary actions, recruiting shortfalls and difficulties that foreign fighters face traveling into Syria," the official said.

In Libya, IS jihadists already control the Mediterranean city of Sirte, the birthplace of former leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya has been in chaos since the NATO-backed ouster of the longtime dictator in 2011.

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