Libyan forces work to secure gains against Islamic State in Sirte

Carla Harmon
August 12, 2016

Eissa said IS militants have been cornered inside residential areas in the northern section of the city as well as palace complexes adjacent to the port of Sirte.

The taking of the headquarters followed rapid gains by pro-government forces through the city on Wednesday and after the United States last week launched airstrikes on ISIS positions in Sirte at the GNA's request.

The fall of Sirte would be a huge setback to the jihadists' efforts to expand their self-proclaimed "caliphate" beyond Syria and Iraq where they have also suffered a string of losses.

In Wednesday's clashes, the government-backed forces said they had also advanced to a cluster of unfinished blocks just west of the center of Sirte, known as the "bone buildings", which had been used by IS snipers and fighters had described as a major impediment to their progress. On August 1, the USA began airstrikes to help them advance against militants encircled in the center of the Mediterranean coastal city.

Libyan television broadcast images of flag-waving soldiers in recaptured areas including the Ouagadougou centre, flashing victory signs as they posed for photographs.

Libyan pro-government forces have lost hundreds of fighters since the Sirte offensive started.

At least 16 fighters from the government-backed forces were killed and 11 wounded, Issa said.

Libya has been wracked by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody uprising ended with the ouster and death of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

They are led by brigades from the nearby Misrata.

US Africa Command says it carried out seven strikes on Sirte on Wednesday, targeting trucks mounted with heavy artillery, fighting positions, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and two supply trucks.

The pro-GNA operations centre said further USA raids were carried out on Wednesday but did not say how many. General Mohamed El-Ghasri, spokesman for the Libyan militias fighting against ISIS in Sirte, announced that the final phase of the operation to liberate the city has been called "Macomedes", after the name used for the city in ancient times.

The capture of the headquarters came after a lightning advance on Wednesday that saw pro-GNA forces seize the University of Sirte campus just south of the conference centre and the Ibn Sina Hospital to the north.

IS claimed to have downed the aircraft.

GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj had told Italy's Corriere della Sera in an interview published on Wednesday that his government had asked only for "airstrikes which must be very precise and limited in time and geographical scope".

Renzi's centre-left government has refused to confirm or deny reports that dozens of special forces have been deployed to help with demining and training pro-GNA forces.

The Italian government delivered a brief document outlining the special forces mission in Libya to the parliament's intelligence services oversight committee last week, said the source, who had knowledge of the document.

Other reports by iNewsToday