Libyan forces take last IS-held building in Sirte

Libyan forces take last IS-held building in Sirte
2 min read
07 December, 2016
Libyan government troops have captured the last holdout of IS in the coastal city of Sirte, with the group's former stronghold now cleared of militants.
Sirte is now completely in the hands of the UN-backed government [AFP]
Libyan forces took control of the last building occupied by Islamic State group militants in Sirte on Tuesday, with the seaside city now completely in the UN-backed government's hands.

Libyan fighters captured the last patch of territory held by the militants in the Ghiza Bahriya district of Sirtre on Tuesday.

It came after hours of fighting between government forces - backed by US air strikes - and IS fighters.

"[We have] secured all the buildings and the streets" Libyan forces spokesperson Rida Issa told Reuters. 

"We still need to secure the area around Sirte," he said.

IS members had holed up in the building with several dozen women and children to make a last stand against government forces, the news agency reported.

But with the building cleared, Sirte is completely in the hands of the government with the last IS remnants - of what until recently was the group's Libyan stronghold - captured or dead.

Due to the power vacuum in Libyam, Sirte was once touted as a possible alternative base for IS militants, as the group's territories in Syria and Iraq shrunk.

Months of fighting has seen their stronghold on the Mediterranean also eaten away, until the fighters were left with just a small seaside neighbourhood in their hands.

Last week, militants were captured by Libyan forces attempting to swim out of Sirte to safety.

On Monday, the Misrata-based government announced they had defeated IS in the Sirte.

But the claim appeared premature with fighting continuing into Tuesday with three men killed and about 50 wounded.

Two IS attemped suicide bombings also took place on Tuesday - including one by a woman - officials told Reuters, while 30 militants were found dead by government forces.

IS militants had reportedly held a group of women and children captive, including a number of migrants.

Government forces said that 21 women and 31 children had been released in Ghiza Bahriya in the past days.

Despite Sirte's fall, Libya is largely lawless with in-fighting between rival governments, militias and tribes, including some militant groups with extremist links.