Backed by the US airstrikes, pro-government forces engaged in the final battle to liberate Sirte from Islamic State group on Sunday, August 28, 2016.
Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) supported by US airstrikes on Sunday, August 28, 2016 pushed into the last areas of Sirte, the city captured by Islamic State (IS) terrorist militants in June 2015 and compelled the jihadists to retreat.
A loyalist field commander, Hisham Abdel Atti said pro-government forces had seized “two-thirds of district number one and large parts of district number three,” The Times of Israel quoted. The commander further said in remarks reportedly carried by the media centre dedicated to Sirte offensive that the jihadists were retreating. The spokesman of the pro-government forces, Reda Issa is quoted as saying that “The final battle for Sirte has started.” The declaration came as loyalist forces thrust into two districts of Sirte where Islamic State still held positions. About 1,000 fighters allied with the GNA took part in the offensive.
The Times of Israel further cited a news agency photographer who said he saw several tanks and armed vehicles move towards district number one and heard gunfire and rocket explosions as they entered the area. “Fierce street battles” took place during the day with pro-GNA forces using weaponry including heavy artillery, the photographer reportedly said and added that the fighting later became more sporadic.
The battle had disastrous consequences for pro-government forces as field hospital sources are cited as stating that at least 34 loyalists were killed and 150 others wounded. Medical sources are also cited as saying that more than 370 pro-GNA fighters have been killed and nearly 2,000 wounded in the battle for Sirte since May. A source disclosed that “The Daesh gangs (IS) fighters committed mass suicide today when they sent five car bombs and a suicide bomber to try and stop our advancing forces.”
US Africa Command reportedly said that since August 1, US warplanes have backed the assault to expel IS from Sirte, and as of August 24 had carried out 82 strikes. The pro-GNA forces fought their way into Sirte on June 9 and two months later seized the jihadists’ headquarters at the Ouagadougou conference centre, pinning down IS fighters near the sea.