British Special Forces in Libya have been ambushed by Islamic State (Isis) suicide bombers in an attack that may also have killed Italian troops. An Israeli news agency report suggests that Daesh (Isis) extremists attacked a convoy travelling from the northwestern city of Misrata towards the IS stronghold of Sirte – the birthplace of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The attack on 27 April, targeted the convoy carrying Special Boat Service (SBS) operatives and Italian troops. The suicide mission was said to resemble similar terrorist attacks by Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula operations against Egyptian forces.
Earlier in April reports suggested that the SBS and Special Air Service (SAS) were preparing to launch a two-pronged attack on IS strongholds in Mosul in Iraq and Sirte in Libya. Several hundred troops were said to be planning to join French, Italian and US Special Forces to mount the huge offensive within weeks, sources say.
A joint force consisting of officers from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and the US are said to be planning the invasion of Libya. Earlier in April, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond travelled to Libya to meet the leaders of the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) where he pledged British support.
Despite losing ground in Iraq and Syria, IS has been gaining ground in Libya but lost the key town of Derna on 21 April. Now, on the verge of an invasion by foreign troops, IS in Libya, have seemingly begun a fightback.
"Vehicles packed with explosives drew up alongside the convoy transporting the Italian and British troops and blew themselves up," reported the Debka news website. "Other ISIS fighters shelled the convoy with mortars and strafed it with heavy machine gun fire. The Western force was only able to escape after Italian and French warplanes and attack helicopters intervened."
Concerns have been expressed by UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond that Libya could be a springboard for attacks on Europe by IS jihadists. Troops have been on the ground in Libya for months and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is said to be considering deploying to up 1,000 personnel to north Africa.
The Ministry of Defence said in a statement: "The MoD neither confirms nor denies claims about Special Forces activity."