Daesh bombers hit Libyan forces as Sirte battle rages
Tripoli - Arab Today
Forces allied with Libya’s unity government battled Sunday to retake the Daesh group’s last redoubts in its stronghold of Sirte, facing fierce resistance including a series of suicide car bombings.
The pro-government forces entered Sirte on Wednesday and have been advancing more quickly than expected against Daesh, which seized control of the coastal city last year and turned it into its main base of operations in North Africa.
The loss of Sirte would be a major setback for Daesh, which has also been losing territory in Syria and Iraq where the jihadist group established its self-declared “caliphate” in 2014.
Daesh — surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometers in the city center — have been putting up fierce resistance and on Sunday carried out three suicide car bombings against pro-government fighters.
“Three explosions from cars driven by Daesh suicide bombers targeted our forces in Sirte,” Reda Issa, a spokesman for the unity government’s forces, told AFP.
Two of the bombers hit gatherings of pro-government forces and another hit a field hospital, he said.
At least one person was killed and four wounded in the blasts, Issa said.
The attacks came a day after pro-government forces said they had recaptured the port in Sirte, the hometown of Libya’s ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and residential areas in the city’s east.
The forces are allied with Libya’s Government of National Accord, which is backed by the international community as the country’s legitimate authority.
The GNA, led by prime minister-designate Fayez Al-Sarraj, has been struggling for months to assert its authority in the face of rival administrations vying for power in the chaos of post-Qaddafi Libya.
The pro-GNA forces are mostly made up of militias from western cities, notably Misrata, and the guards of oil installations that IS has repeatedly tried to seize.
They have engaged in heavy street-to-street battles with the jihadists, deploying tanks, rocket launchers and artillery in the fight for the city.
The Misrata militia forces — who have an arsenal that includes MiG fighter jets and attack helicopters — have also carried out dozens of air raids against IS.
The operation announced Sunday on its Facebook page that it had launched fresh air strikes against IS positions and vehicles in central Sirte.