Libya pro-govt forces preparing 'decisive' Sirte assault

Tripoli - Libya's unity government forces said on Tuesday they were preparing for a final assault on the Islamic State group's stronghold of Sirte, after repelling multiple counter-attacks from the surrounded jihadists.

"Despite apparent calm along the fronts, our intelligence network is in full swing in preparation for the decisive battle," forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement.

Anti-ISIS forces launched an operation to retake Sirte - the hometown of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi - last month and quickly surrounded the extremists.

ISIS hit back with string of suicide car bombings in a bid to break the encirclement.

According to the pro-GNA forces statement, fighters were targeting ISIS-held areas of Sirte with heavy artillery as well as with "daily" airstrikes.

"[ISIS fighters] are besieged in a small area of Sirte and although they have sought to break out, our forces have repelled all attempts," the statement said.

It added that the jihadists had barricaded themselves in residential buildings and had deployed snipers and explosive devices to fend off pro-GNA forces.

According to medical sources, five pro-GNA forces were killed and 16 wounded in clashes.

Loyalists said they had killed "dozens" of jihadists in the past 24 hours.

At least 170 loyalist troops have been killed and hundreds wounded since the start of the offensive to capture Sirte, 450km east of Tripoli.

An unknown number of jihadists have been killed in the city, which they overran in June 2015.

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