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Libya pro-govt forces say IS battle over 'within days'

IS took advantage of the chaos in 2011 to take over the city [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 August, 2016

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Pro-government Libyan forces have said they are pushing out the last remaining IS militants from their main stronghold of Sirte, as the battle moves into its "final stages".

Pro-government Libyan forces said on Thursday they are pushing out the last remaining Islamic State group [IS] militants from their main stronghold of Sirte, as the battle moves into its "final stages".

The forces have been advancing on IS in Sirte - 450 kilometres east of Tripoli - since June, in an operation dubbed Bunyan Marsus (Solid Structure).

"We are preparing to announce the total liberation of Sirte in the next two days at the most," sources in the Bunyan Marsus Operations Room told The New Arab.

"We are currently pursuing the last remnants of IS in the city, who have been dispersed and their organisational capabilities destroyed."

The sources said that the Libyan fighters, mainly from the western city of Misrata, had taken over the al-Deyafa palaces and a nearby hotel in the west of the city.

A day earlier they captured the sprawling convention centre known as Ouagadougou, which IS had turned into its headquarters.

     
      The capture of Sirte would be a major blow to IS [Getty]

The forces had earlier taken the main hospital named Ibn Sina, and the city's university.

Sirte's mayor Mokhtar Khalifa said the city's southern and western sections were under control of the Libyan fighters loyal to the UN-brokered unity government in Tripoli, the country's capital.

"Sirte is 70 percent free, it will soon be completely free," Khalifa said.

IS still controls several areas of the Mediterranean city, whose capture in June 2015 sparked fears the extremists would use it as a springboard for attacks on Europe.

Sirte's fall would be a huge setback to the Islamist militants' efforts to expand their self-proclaimed "caliphate" beyond Syria and Iraq where they have also suffered losses.

"The battle for Sirte has reached its final phase, after the successful offensive by our heroes," said Bunyan Marsus spokesman General Mohammad al-Ghassri.

The advance comes after the United States launched air raids on IS positions in Sirte on August 1.

The US military said 36 strikes had been carried out against IS since the start of "Operation Odyssey Lightning".

IS took advantage of the chaos that followed the ousting and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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