ISIS tries to break siege in Libya's Sirte

2016-06-19 21:03
(AP)

(AP)

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Tripoli - The Islamic State group on Sunday tried to break a siege on their last holdouts in Sirte but were pushed back by fighters allied to Libya's unity government, a spokesperson said.

ISIS fighters have been pinned down in parts of Sirte since forces allied to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an operation to dislodge them from the coastal city last month.

Pro-GNA forces on Sunday said they clashed with the jihadists who had launched a bid to break away from positions west of Sirte using "medium-sized" weapons.

"Our forces confronted them and forced them to retreat," said spokesperson Reda Issa.

"Two of our men were killed and five wounded" in the clashes around the Al-Ghrebat sector of Sirte, he said.

Jihadist groups took root in Libya in late 2014, taking advantage of the chaos and power struggles that followed the Nato-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddhafi in 2011.

Inside homes

The pro-GNA forces launched an operation to drive ISIS out of Sirte on May 12.

They imposed a siege around the Mediterranean city last week and advanced into parts of it but the operation has slowed down with jihadists holed up in residential areas.

"The pro-government forces are advancing cautiously because ISIS fighters are barricaded inside homes and we are trying to avoid using heavy artillery to spare civilians who could also be inside," said Issa.

ISIS has counter-attacked during the past week, including with suicide bombings that have killed at least nine pro-GNA forces.

Issa said the pro-GNA forces were now focused on trying to "bolster their positions on the outskirts of Sirte to re-inforce the siege and provoke ISIS fighters to come out of hiding".


Read more on:    libya  |  north africa

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