( Italian Special Ops troops.)
ISIS fighters smashed a force of Italian and British Special Ops troops on Wednesday, April 27 in the first battle of its kind in Libya, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report. This battle will result in the delay of the planned Western invasion of Libya, as the encounter proved that European forces are not ready for this kind of guerilla warfare. The sources also said the planners of the invasion were surprised by the high combat skills of the ISIS fighters.
Our sources report the following details:
The convoy of Italian marines, British special forces and Libyan troops was traveling from the northwestern city of Misrata toward the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, located 273 kilometers to the southeast, when it was ambushed and hit hard by ISIS forces.
Italian troops were among those killed or wounded in the battle, but there is no information whether there were British casualties as well. Some reports say members of the Western force were taken prisoner by ISIS, although they have yet to be identified. It is possible that any hostages are from the Libyan National Army, a militia commanded by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan who has American citizenship.
A joint command consisting of officers from Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the US that is responsible for planning the invasion of Libya, as well as the Italian and British defense ministries, imposed a media blackout regarding the battle.
On Monday, two days before the clash, the joint command convened in the German city of Hanover and decided to speed up preparations for the invasion due to deteriorating security in Libya.
According to the information from debkafile’s sources, vehicles packed with explosives drove up alongside the convoy transporting the Italian and British troops and blew themselves up. Suicide bombers then charged the force as other ISIS fighters shelled the convoy with mortars and strafed it with heavy machine gunfire. The Western force was only able to escape after Italian and French warplanes and attack helicopters intervened.
Just last week, on April 22, Italy’s 1st Special Operations Air Brigade completed a 19-day exercise at the country’s Cervia airbase. It included simulated battles against ISIS forces from Libya that landed on the coast to attack strategic Italian facilities from just 200km away.
debkafile’s military sources point out that the ISIS method of attack used in Wednesday’s ambush was very similar to the one used by the terrorist organization’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula against Egyptian forces. The method includes car bombs, suicide bombers, roadside bombs and heavy artillery.
Our sources also report that one day after the battle, on April 28, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at the parliament in Rome that “Italy has no plans to send troops to Libya without a request from the unity government that is backed by the UN,”
He made the remarks after one of the country’s main newspapers, Corriere della Sera, reported that Rome is ready to deploy a force of between 600 and 900 troops to Libya to protect the country’s oil fields and installations.
However, European military sources say that a much larger Italian force of 6,000 troops is about to arrive in Libya along with 1,000 British troops, according to debkafile’s military sources.
The US, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, spoke at a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. They claimed US-backed forces had made progress in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but committee members were skeptical. Neither Carter nor Dunford said a word about the events in Libya.