Libya government forces seize key sector of IS group stronghold

Libya Government Forces

Libya Government Forces

Libyan pro-unity government forces said they seized a key central district of the Islamic State jihadist group’s coastal bastion of Sirte on Friday.

Fighters allied to the Government of National Accord took control of a residential area called the “700 housing units” near Ibn Sina hospital and the city’s Ouagadougou conference centre, the GNA’s forces said on social media.

They said the jihadists were also coming under air strikes.

A FRANCE 24 team on the ground in Sirte spoke to several of the local militiamen fighting against the Islamic State group.

“With the help of God, we’re winning, and we’re going to kill them all,” one of them told FRANCE 24.

“Sirte will be their graveyard,” another said. “We will celebrate the Eid here and allow people who lived here to come back.” Eid is the feast that marks the end of Ramadan.

A field commander, Siraj Daw, said that fighting was getting closer to the Ouagadougou centre, which the IS group has been using as its field headquarters.

“The resistance has been fierce but we have dealt with the (IS group) snipers and wiped them out… We’ve captured many vehicles and weapons,” he told reporters.

“They have many dead,” he said, without giving figures.

Since May 12, pro-government forces from the west, Libyan naval forces and eastern militias have pushed the jihadists back into a residential zone inside Sirte.

But their early advances slowed when they entered Sirte on June 9 and reached built-up central and northern parts of the city. The IS group has hit back with suicide car bombs and sniper fire.

The jihadists overran the city, around 450 kilometres (270 miles) east of the capital Tripoli in June last year.

Pro-government forces retaking Sirte would be a major blow to the IS group, which has faced a series of setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

Nearly 200 anti-IS group fighters have been killed and more than 600 wounded since the start of the offensive, according to medical sources.

Pro-government forces, commanded out of Misrata, 190 kilometres to the northwest, are mostly made up of western militias established during the 2011 revolt that overthrew dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

A militia set up to guard the country’s main oil facilities has also been advancing on the IS group from the east.