Libya government forces make final push in Sirte

Author : Mircea Birca | Monday, August 29, 2016
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Libya’s pro-government forces on Monday cornered Daesh group extremists in their last holdouts in the coastal city of Sirte, after heavy fighting that left dozens of dead and wounded.

The battle for Daesh’s North African stronghold was launched more than three months ago by forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Loyalist forces have been backed by US air raids for almost a month, amid international concern over the extremists’ growing influence.

Daesh overran the Mediterranean home town of Libya’s slain leader Muammer Qadhafi in mid-2015, sparking fears the extremists would use it as a springboard for attacks on Europe.

Pro-GNA forces on Monday said they had encircled the extremists in less than two square kilometres (0.7 square mile) of Sirte, after staging an assault the previous day on its last two Daesh-held districts.

The anti-Daesh fighters “seized a little more than half of district Number Three and 70 per cent of district Number One” in the down town seafront area, they said.

At least 38 pro-GNA fighters have been killed and 185 wounded since they began the “final battle” to retake all of Sirte on Sunday, the hospital for the loyalist forces in the nearby city of Misrata said.

The pro-GNA field hospital in Sirte on Sunday called for blood donations.

Daesh casualty figures have been unavailable.

The extremists deployed at least 12 suicide car bombs in a last bid to slow the loyalist advance, pro-GNA forces said.

After sporadic clashes during the night, the front was calm on Monday morning, according to an AFP photographer in the city 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli.

“Our forces are preparing to launch a new assault on the area where Daesh is encircled,” said a spokesman for the pro-GNA campaign, Reda Issa.

In district Number Three, loyalists have retaken the Qortoba Mosque, which the extremists had renamed after slain Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the campaign’s media office said.

Daesh set fire to the mosque’s library after entering the city, killing an imam and using its courtyard for “torture and executions,” it said.

In June 2015, Daesh fighters seized Sirte, hoisting their black flag above the city.

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