Libyan pro-government forces squeeze last IS remnants in Sirte

Libyan pro-government forces squeeze last IS remnants in Sirte
Tripoli's UN-backed government asserts its power over the former IS-stronghold while enjoying a political boost from former boycotters.
2 min read
28 August, 2016
Government loyalist forces in the former IS-stronghold of Sirte [AFP]

Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government pushed on Sunday into the last areas of Sirte held by the Islamic State group in what was the jihadists' coastal stronghold, a spokesman said.

"Our forces entered the last areas held by Daesh in Sirte: district number one and district number three," said Rida Issa, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"The final battle for Sirte has started", he added.

Political Boost 

Meanwhile, Libya's Government of National Unity [GNA] may also enjoy a political boost after a boycotting member of the body's nine-member Presidential Council said that he would resume duties.

Ali Gatrani - who is connected to rival factions in the country's east - announced the decision just days after a second boycotting member that he too would return to his post.

The council member said that his decision came in response to an invitation to a meeting on Sunday from Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the GNA.

Gatrani added that his primary concerns are "the rights of the Barqa region and its people ... whom we represent, along with their sons' sacrifices in the police and the army," referring Libya's eastern region.

Continued reservations

However, Gatrani's statement made late on Saturday re-iterated concerns about the growing power of armed militias in the war-torn North African state.

Factions loyal to General Khalifa Haftar in Libya's east prevented the country's parliament, which is based in the east, from approving the GNA based upon concerns over militias. The factions accuse the GNA over being overly-reliant upon these militias as a means of asserting power and undermining Haftar's forces.

General Haftar's forces, however, are not recognised by Western states who see the GNA as the most effective means of ending the political and military chaos that has engulfed Libya after the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.