Libyan forces repel ISIL attacks in battle for Sirte
TRIPOLI // Forces backed by Libya’s unity government have consolidated their positions on the edge of Sirte, repelling sniper, tank and mortar attacks as they seek to oust ISIL from its North African stronghold.
Fighting resumed on Wednesday near Sirte’s port, which government-backed forces captured last week. There have also been intense clashes in the neighbourhood and around the Ouagadougou conference hall, south of a five-square-kilometre zone still controlled by ISIL, security sources said.
The campaign in Sirte is led by militias from the western city of Misurata that are aligned with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. They launched a counter-attack against ISIL just under a month ago, rapidly recapturing positions on the coastal road west of Sirte and advancing to the outskirts of the city.
The militias said on Wednesday they had been working to clear recaptured territory from mines and explosives and were preparing to launch a radio broadcast that would “respond to the widespread lies and deceptions of Daesh”.
Five pro-government fighters have been killed and 37 wounded in the latest fighting for ISIL’s bastion of Sirte, said pro-government forces. More than 145 pro-government forces have died in the past month’s fighting, with more than 500 wounded, medical officials said.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution allowing the European Union’s maritime force off Libya’s coast to seize illegal weapons that have helped fuel violence and instability in Libya.
The resolution, drafted by Britain and France, authorises EU ships in Operation Sophia — which has been combating migrant trafficking in the Mediterranean — to also stop vessels on the high seas off Libya’s coast suspected of smuggling arms in violation of a UN arms embargo.
Council president Francois Delattre of France said the measure was a potential “game changer” as it would cut off the arms flow that feeds Libya’s instability.
Also on Tuesday, the head of Libya’s unity government urged Libyans to rally behind the battle against ISIL in Sirte.
Prime minister-designate Fayez Al Sarraj said advances by pro-government fighters in Sirte should be a model for “a national initiative to fight terrorism”.
* Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
Updated: June 15, 2016 04:00 AM