Libyan Army have advanced into another area in their battle to liberate Sirte from ISIS in fighting that killed 14 of their troops, military officials and hospital sources said.
After six months of fighting, backed by US air strikes, Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government in Tripoli are close to clearing out the last remnants of the militant group from the former hometown of dead Dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Heavy street-to-street fighting in the Ghiza Bahriya area involved tanks and armored vehicles with heavy machine guns, as well as airstrikes to retake houses occupied by Islamic State, according to military officials and a Reuters reporter.
“There was an incursion on Friday made by Bonyan Marsous forces into Ghiza Bahriya,” said Ahmad Hadia, one of the spokesmen for pro-government forces who are mainly from the city of Misrata. “A car bomb was hit by warplanes of our forces.”
Fourteen pro-government troops were killed and more than 20 wounded in clashes yesterday, a spokesman of the Misrata Central hospital, Akram Gliwan, told Reuters.
The fall of Sirte would be another blow to ISIS just as the militant group comes under pressure in its main territory of Syria and Iraq, where it has also lost ground.
With Misrata forces in Sirte, rival eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, who opposes the Tripoli government, has taken over four key oil ports. That has allowed resumption of oil exports but fuelled concern about renewed conflict.
Misrata backed brigades took over Tripoli from rivals in 2014 and set up their own self-declared government, forcing the elected parliament to operate in the east of the country backed by Haftar.
Misrata forces now support the U.N.-backed Tripoli government trying to unite rival factions. But with no real national army, armed brigades are often more loyal to their city or region than the central government.