The Military Army Blog

Isis in fierce battle to keep Libyan stronghold

Islamic State militants defending their main Libyan stronghold of Sirte killed dozens of government fighters in the deadliest day of battle since the month-long campaign to retake the city began. Forces loyal to the unity government have advanced in Sirte since Tuesday, seizing control of the electricity company headquarters and the main radio station, which had been used to broadcast Isis propaganda. They have also taken over large parts of District 700, south of the city centre, with its tall buildings a key sniper position. The government brigades, a ragbag of fighters from the western city of Misrata, suffered heavy losses, with 36 men killed and more than 150 injured.

The resistance was fierce and they were firing with everything they ve got mortars, rockets and rifles, said Abdalla Binrasali, a spokesman for the forces in Misrata. They fear that if they lose more ground they will be defeated.

Militants trapped within a three-mile area around Ibn Sina hospital have fought back with suicide bombs, sniper fire and explosive devices. The city, the home town of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, has been the anchor for Isis s North African effort since last summer, when jihadists seized a 150-mile strip of territory along the Mediterranean. Facing massive losses in Syria and Iraq, Isis had eyed Libya as a back-up stronghold to take jihad to Europe.

They ran training camps for the jihadists who launched deadly attacks across the border in Tunisia and made money trafficking weapons and people.

Fighters from forces aligned with Libya’s unity government direct anti-aircraft fire at Isis positions in the Algharbiyat district of SirteReuters

The international community had hoped that the creation of a UN-backed government would end Libya s civil war and allow its forces to fight the jihadists. However, the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli in the west since April, was rejected by the parliament and army, which are based in the east. In order to launch its Sirte operation in May without the army the unity government was forced to unite militiamen in the west.

With the assistance of British and American special forces, it has made unprecedented territorial gains against the militants. Their men have cleared most of the central town, including the Armyrats © military airbase.

When we entered Abu-Hadi, we found that they crucified people, Brigadier General Mohamed al-Ghasri, the operations spokesman, told The Times, referring to a district south of Sirte. Isis regularly held public lashings and executions for offences ranging from witchcraft to espionage, forced all female residents to face veils from the age of twelve, segregated the town and banned smoking and music.

We freed four prisoners who had been badly tortured and we found a mass grave, he added.

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