PM: US warplanes launch bombing campaign on Islamic State in Libya

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US launches airstrikes against ISIS in Libya

SIRTE, Libya, Aug 1 (Reuters) - U.S. planes bombed Islamic State targets in Libya on Monday, responding to the U.N.-backed government's request to help push the militants from their former stronghold in the city of Sirte.

"The first air strikes were carried out at specific locations in Sirte today causing severe losses to enemy ranks," Prime Minster Fayez Seraj said on state TV.

SEE ALSO: U.S.-backed forces now control 40 percent of IS-held city of Manbij

Forces allied with Seraj have been battling Islamic State in Sirte - the home town of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi - since May.

The group seized the Mediterranean coastal city last year, making it its most important base outside Syria and Iraq, but its militants are now besieged in a few square kilometers of the center where they hold strategic sites including the Ouagadougou conference hall, the central hospital and the university.

See more of the Libyan forces fight against ISIS:

17 PHOTOS
Libyan forces battling for ISIS stronghold
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Libyan forces battling for ISIS stronghold
Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fire weapons during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic SEARCH "GORAN LIBYA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fires a 81 mm mortar round in Sirte, Libya, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fires a 81 mm mortar round in Sirte, Libya, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government uses a compass to adjust the line of fire for a 81 mm mortar in Sirte, Libya, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fires a 81 mm mortar round in Sirte, Libya, July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government waits for orders to fire a 122 MM artillery in Sirte, Libya, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fire a 122 MM artillery towards Islamic State fighters positions in Sirte, Libya, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government attaches a detonator on a 122 MM artillery in Sirte, Libya, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fire a 122 MM artillery towards Islamic State fighters positions in Sirte, Libya, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fires a weapon during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government prays in front of his sniper rifle during a battle with Islamic States fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fire weapons during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government carry a tank shell in during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government runs for cover during a battle with Islamic States fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government stand in a house during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government takes a break during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
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The last acknowledged U.S. air strikes in Libya were on an Islamic State training camp in the western city of Sabratha in February.

Seraj said the Presidential Council of his Government of National Accord (GNA), had decided to "activate" its participation in the international coalition against Islamic State and "request the United States to carry out targeted air strikes on Daesh (Islamic State)."

"I want to assure you that these operations are limited to a specific timetable and do not exceed Sirte and its suburbs," he said, adding that international support on the ground would be limited to technical and logistical help.

U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the air strikes, the White House said.

"GNA-aligned forces have had success in recapturing territory from ISIL (Islamic State) thus far around Sirte, and additional U.S. strikes will continue to target ISIL in Sirte in order to enable the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

Brigades mainly composed of militia from the western city of Misrata advanced on Sirte in May, but their progress was slowed in recent weeks by snipers, mines and booby-traps.

Those forces have complained that assistance from the government in Tripoli and external powers was slow to materialize. At least 350 of their fighters have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded in the campaign.

Libyan fighter jets have frequently bombed Sirte, but they lack the weapons and technology to make precision strikes.

Also learn what life is like under ISIS:

26 PHOTOS
What life looks like under ISIS rule
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What life looks like under ISIS rule
A civilian woman carries her child during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Civilians walk past Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) during a battle with Islamic State militants, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A displaced man, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, carries a woman in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
An Iraqi soldier is seen during a battle with Islamic State militants, north of Mosul, Iraq, December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi people flee the Islamic State stronghold in the town of Bartella, east of Mosul, December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi rapid response forces cook food in their headquarters during the war against the Islamic state militants east of Mosul, Iraq, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
Mohammad Hassan, whose hand was chopped off by Islamic State militants, sits outside a house at Nimrud village, south of Mosul, Iraq, December 13, 2016. Picture taken December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced Iraqi boys, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, warm themselves by a fire in Khazer camp, Iraq,December 15, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Displaced Iraqi woman, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, bids her relatives farewell as she leave Khazer camp to go home, Iraq December 10, 2016.REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Iraqi Christians come to visit the heavily damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
An Iraqi father (L) mourns the death of his son, who was killed during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
An Iraqi girl, who was wounded during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, lies on a bed at a field hospital in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Displaced people who fled the clashes transfer to camps during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A member of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gestures in military vehicle during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 30, 2016 REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man gestures as other men sit on the ground as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team check their ID cards as they search for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Two men hold hands as an Iraqi Special forces intelligence team searches for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq November 27, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters are seen in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Boys stand in front of oilfields burned by Islamic State fighters in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Civilians flee fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A member of Shi'ite fighters carries a weapon during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
A displaced woman from the outskirts of Mosul covers herself in a blanket in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq, November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily
A girl attends classes after the city was recaptured from the Islamic State militants in Qayyara, Iraq, November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
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