Libyan forces ad­vance in bat­tle against IS

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

MIS­RATA—Libyan forces fight­ing to free the city of Sirte from IS forces have sur­rounded Satur­day a con­fer­ence hall in the area still held by mil­i­tants after air strikes and clashes that killed at least three pro-gov­ern­ment fight­ers, se­nior of­fi­cials said.

Forces al­lied with Libya’s unity gov­ern­ment be­gan a cam­paign two months ago to free Sirte from ISIS, after mil­i­tants took ad­van­tage of fight­ing be­tween ri­val fac­tions to gain ter­ri­tory and con­trol the coastal city last year.

Three fight­ers were killed and more than 30 in­jured dur­ing fight­ing on Fri­day after ISIS mil­i­tants were driven out of the res­i­den­tial 700 district in fierce clashes in­volv­ing rock­ets, mor­tars and gun bat­tles, a se­nior com­man­der and hospi­tal of­fi­cials said.

Com­man­ders of the forces, who are mainly from the nearby port city of Mis­rata, say re­main­ing ISIS fight­ers are in an area around Sirte’s Oua­gadougou con­fer­ence com­plex and a nearby hospi­tal. But snipers and land­mines have slowed progress.

‘‘He said Mis­rata forces had also hit a house where sev­eral IS com­man­ders were hid­ing, but it was un­clear how many ca­su­al­ties they suf­fered or how long it would take to clear out re­main­ing mil­i­tants in Sirte.

Watch: Libya’s Sirte has be­comes ‘fully closed’ amid ISIS ad­vance Mis­rata forces back the UN-sup­ported unity gov­ern­ment in Tripoli that is meant to re­place two ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tions and over­come the di­vi­sions among Libya’s var­i­ous armed fac­tions that slowly emerged after the fall of Muam­mar Qaddafi in 2011.

The bat­tle in Sirte has been slowed by snipers and ex­plo­sives as Mis­rata forces say they lacked the equip­ment and tac­tics to flush out mil­i­tant gun­men among the vil­las and streets of cen­tral Sirte.

Any even­tual fall of Sirte would be a huge blow to ISIS in Libya, es­pe­cially as the mil­i­tant group is also fac­ing set­backs in Iraq, where it has lost the city of Fal­lu­jah and other ter­ri­tory to Iraqi forces.—Agen­cies

Res­i­den­tial area 700 has been lib­er­ated and as of 6pm the Oua­gadougou cent and the hospi­tal are sur- rounded”. —Mo­hamed Gnaidy, in­tel­li­gence chief

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