Islamic State group militants retreat from Libyan stronghold

Islamic State group militants retreat from Libyan stronghold
IS fighters have withdrawn from bases in and around a Libyan coastal city, following clashes with eastern security forces, marking major setback for the group after recent victories.
2 min read
21 April, 2016
The retreat comes following recent strikes by eastern security forces [Anadolu]

Libyan Islamic State group militants retreated from its stronghold bases near the northern city of Derna on Wednesday, according to officials from the country's eastern government. 

IS militants retreated from 400 neighbourhoods in the port city over the past day and withdrew from the al-Fatayeh district, located 20 km [12 miles] to the south of Derna, military spokesman Abdulkari Sabra told Reuters.

The military - linked to the nationalist Tripoli government - provided ground forces with air support during the operation, Sabra added.

Air raids by security forces allied to the Tripoli governments have took place in and around Derna in recent months.

A band of IS militants heading for the group's stronghold city of Sirte were intercepted by eastern security forces, he said.

Photos on social media showed Derna residents celebrating the liberation of the city and waving Libyan flags in the streets.

They were also involved in heavy clashes with extremist fighters around 250 km [155] to the west of Benghazi city, Reuters reported.

Fighting continued there on Wednesday as the military announced they are close to gaining full control of the southern district Guwarsha.

IS established an affiliate in Libya after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Militants seized control of the dictator's hometown Sirte and are fighting to expand their control into oil-rich Libyan territories.

Earlier this month, General David Rodriguez, commander of US Africa command, estimated that IS group militants in Libya had doubled in the past year to around 4,000 to 6,000 recruits.

IS-linked militants have launched numerous attacks in the country, are were said to be responsibile for the kidnapping of 15 Egyptian workers in Tripoli last month.

A UN monitoring report released in March said that the IS group had "significantly expanded" in Libya, warning that the country's collapse had made it an attractive destination for foreign fighters.