IS ‘last stand’ in Libyan city

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­lamic State group ji­hadists are mak­ing a “last stand” in their for­mer Libyan strong­hold of Sirte, where they now con­trol only around two blocks, the Pen­tagon said Thurs­day. The IS group had held all of the Mediter­ranean port city as re­cently as early this sum­mer, es­tab­lish­ing a sig­nif­i­cant foothold in Libya.

The United States started a bomb­ing cam­paign in Au­gust at the re­quest the UN-sup­ported Libyan Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA) to help lo­cal forces re­cap­ture the city more than a year af­ter the IS group seized it. Al­though the op­er­a­tion has taken months longer than ini­tially ex­pected, it has pushed back the group’s con­trol to around 50 build­ings. The re­main­ing ji­hadists are few in num­ber “but they are per­sis­tent and fight­ing to the death,” Pen­tagon spokesman Navy Cap­tain Jeff Davis said. “It’s a stub­born area.”

“This is ISIL’s last stand in Sirte and they are fight­ing hard,” he added, us­ing an­other acro­nym for the IS group. The fall of Sirte-the home­town of the slain dic­ta­tor Moamer Kad­hafi lo­cated 450 kilo­me­ters east of Tripoli-would rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant blow to the ji­hadists, who have also faced a se­ries of set­backs and ma­jor as­saults in Syria and Iraq. US war­planes, drones and he­li­copters have con­ducted 467 strikes since the air op­er­a­tion be­gan on Au­gust 1.

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