Libya unity govt allies capture ISIS-held towns

2016-06-01 05:21
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Tripoli - Fighters allied with Libya's UN-backed unity government have captured two coastal towns from the Islamic State group in an advance towards its bastion Sirte, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard overran Ben Jawad and Nofiliya as they thrust westwards along the Mediterranean coast from their base in Libya's eastern oil ports, the spokesperson said.

Five people were killed and 18 wounded in the fighting, said sector commander Colonel Bashir Buthefira.

"Our forces have taken control of Nofiliya and are now advancing towards Harawa" about 75km east of Sirte, he said on Tuesday.

Sirte was the home town of slain dictator Muammar Ghaddafi and since seizing it in June last year, ISIS has turned it into a recruitment and training camp.

Western governments fear the jihadists could use Sirte's port and airport as a springboard for attacks in Europe.

But they have called for any offensive against the ISIS stronghold to be carried out under the auspices of the unity government installed in Tripoli since March 30 for fear that rival operations could play into the jihadists' hands.

The unity government has gradually asserted its control over key state institutions, but it still faces a rival administration with its own army in the east.

Both sides are pushing towards Sirte, prompting the UN's special envoy on Libya to call on all armed groups to unite against ISIS.

Read more on:    isis  |  libya  |  north africa

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