Pro-government forces have launched a major push to uproot the militant group from the coastal city of Sirte. The announcement comes as the US launched airstrikes on “Islamic State” targets at the government’s request.
Pro-government forces on Wednesday reported the capture of the headquarters of the self-declared “Islamic State” (IS) group in the coastal city of Sirte, considered the militants’ stronghold in Libya.
“Our forces have complete control of the whole of the Ouagadougou [convention] complex – they even advanced some distance beyond the complex,” said the forces’ operations center.
Earlier Wednesday, the pro-government forces said that they had captured a key university complex just south of the militant group’s headquarters.
“The bodies of at least 20 Daesh fighters were found after today’s fighting,” the operations center, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym.
The pro-government forces reported that they lost one of their warplanes over Sirte earlier Wednesday. IS fighters shot down the aircraft and killed the pilot, reported Amaq news agency, which is linked to the group.
Reda Issa, a spokesman for the Libyan forces, told the AFP news agency that an official announcement would only be made once the city had been completely liberated of IS elements.
Forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) launched the offensive in May, aiming to uproot IS from the coastal city.
However, the militants resisted their advance, using snipers, suicide bombers and car bombings. On August 1, the US launched airstrikes in Sirte after the GNA requested military aid.
The militant group shocked the world in February 2015 when it released a video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, marking its first major action in the North African nation.
ls/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)