Libya government forces advance in IS bastion

Libya government forces advance in IS bastion
Fighters backing Libya's unity government made advances inside the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte on Tuesday, after US warplanes carried out their first airstrikes against the militant group in Libya.
2 min read
02 August, 2016
Fighters backing the GNA seized the central district of al-Dollar on Tuesday [AFP]

Forces loyal to Libya's unity government have advanced inside the extremist stronghold of Sirte, they said Tuesday, following the first US airstrikes on Islamic State [IS] group positions in the city.

Fighters backing the Government of National Accord [GNA] seized the central district of al-Dollar after clashes that killed five of their members and wounded 17, they said on social media.

The Tripoli-based GNA launched an operation in May to retake Sirte, which the extremists have controlled since June 2015.

The fall of the coastal city, located 450 kilometres [280 miles] east of Tripoli, would be a major blow to IS, which has also faced a series of setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

On Monday, GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj visited pro-government forces in Misrata, 190 kilometres [118 miles] to the northwest of Sirte, a statement said.

More than 300 pro-GNA fighters have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded since the beginning of the battle for Sirte, according to medical sources in Misrata.

The pro-GNA forces are mostly made up of militias from western Libya established during the 2011 revolt that overthrew long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

Pro-government forces entered Sirte on June 9, reaching central and northern parts of the city. IS has hit back with suicide car bombs and sniper fire.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 ouster and killing of Gaddafi, with rival authorities vying for control in the oil-rich country.

The GNA was the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing agreement struck in December, but it has yet to be endorsed by the elected parliament based in the country's far east.