Forces allied with Libya’s unity government said Saturday they had recaptured the port in Sirte from Daesh group terrorists encircled inside the city.
The Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main Daesh base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told AFP.
The terrorists are now surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square km inside the city where they are laying booby traps, he said.
Most of the city’s residents have fled but about 30,000 remain, he said.
After a month-long operation to close in on Sirte, the rapid pace of the advance by forces allied to the Government of National Accord (GNA) who entered the city on Wednesday has surprised Libyan authorities.
“The battle wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be,” a government official said. “Maybe we exaggerated their (Daesh) numbers?“
The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said Saturday on Twitter that he was “impressed” by the “rapid progress” of pro-GNA forces.
But analysts have warned the city’s fall would not spell the end of the terrorists in Libya, where they have fed on political and military divisions since the 2011 uprising that killed Qaddafi.
Foreign intelligence services estimate the extremist group has 5,000 fighters in Libya, but its strength inside Sirte, which Daesh has held since June 2015, is unclear.
Daesh men tried to wrest back the port on Saturday in an attack that killed two members of the GNA forces, who repelled the assault.
A total of 137 pro-GNA forces have been killed and 500 wounded since the May 12 beginning of the operation, according to a medical official in the western city of Misrata.
The pro-GNA forces are mostly made up of militias from western cities, notably Misrata, and the guards of oil installations that Daesh has repeatedly tried to seize.