WASHINGTON - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which overran large areas of Iraq and Syria, has set up training camps in eastern Libya and the American military is closely monitoring the situation, a top US general said on Wednesday.
Western countries have been increasingly worried that Libya's political turmoil could provide fertile ground for Islamic extremists, but General David Rodriguez ruled out military action on the "nascent" camps in the immediate future.
"They put training camps out there," Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, told reporters, referring to the ISIS.
He described the ISIS activity as "very small and nascent." He said "around a couple hundred" militants were present at the camps and US forces would continue to track the area to see if the ISIS presence expanded.
The United States has been waging an air war against the group in Iraq and Syria but when asked if the training camps in Libya were a potential target for American forces, Rodriguez said: "No, not right now."
The ISIS "has begun its efforts over in the east out there to introduce some people over there," he said.
"But we'll have to just continue to monitor and watch that carefully in the future to see what happens or whether it grows on unabated."
The four-star general said it appeared that the ISIS militants in Libya were not volunteers coming from outside the country but militia members who had shifted their loyalty to the group.
His comments came after the US government and European allies voiced "grave concern" over mounting violence and civil unrest in Libya.
Experts have warned that the ISIS group has gained a foothold in the eastern town of Derna, exploiting the chaos that has engulfed the North African state.
Libya has been plagued by instability since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently boasted of vows of allegiance from militants in the country.
Analysts say a number of factions in Derna have pledged loyalty to the ISIS group, but it remains unclear how much support they enjoy.