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Libyan Army Fights For IS-Held City

Libyan Forces Edge Closer To Victory In Sirte

WT24 Desk

Commanders outside the besieged Islamic State stronghold of Sirte in Libya have told Sky News that the city could be liberated in the next few days, Sky News reports.

Brigades of fighters from Misrata, who are loyal to the UN-backed unity government, have made significant advances over the last 20 days, killing many IS militants in the process.

At the main roundabout on the western side of Sirte, an IS flag – a symbol of cruelty – lies crumpled on the ground. It is the same place where the terror group used to carry out public crucifixions.

Mohammed, a young fighter barely in his 20s, tells me that IS are not Muslims. Fahim, who is aged in his 40s, agrees, adding that they have no place in Libya and Sirte will soon be free.

The men showed us the bodies of IS militants from Tunisia and Egypt. All of them were wearing suicide vests. They were killed before they could detonate their devices.

IS in Libya has now lost huge amounts of ground and is facing collapse inside the North African country, although experts say it will remain as an underground terror network.

After a month-long battle to take back the jihadist stronghold, IS leaders have fled into the desert – driven out by the Libyan unity government troops, helped by British and US experts. On Saturday Libyan forces were fighting militants street by street in what they claimed was a final showdown.

A number of IS fighters remained holed up in the centre of the city – the birthplace of deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi – where they were said to have set booby traps.

But the battle against IS involves huge sacrifices, with more than 130 men killed so far. More than 500 have been injured in the offensive. Five years after the Arab Spring and many of the fighters on the battlefield are angry at what their country has become.

Wisam Omar, who is from Tripoli, says that IS is being used by Egypt to destabilise Libya and keep it weak. There is no evidence of that but it epitomises the anger and frustration many people are feeling in the face such chaos.

It is of course a sharp contrast to the jubilation and hope felt during the uprising in 2011, which saw the dictator Gaddafi overthrown. He was captured and killed in Sirte but the political mayhem that has ensued has left Libya teetering on the edge of perpetual conflict.

Commander Mohamed Darrat tells me senior operatives from Iraq brought with them expertise in terror, exploiting the security vacuum of the post-Gaddafi years. He also said that if IS is not dislodged from its base in Libya, Europe will also end up paying a heavy price.

“If we don’t stop them they will travel to Europe which is very close and they will take their anger out on people there. “It will be a catastrophe for the European countries ISIS’s life is all about death.”

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