Libyan Forces Fighting ISIS Say Key Sirte Sites Secured

Government forces report advances after staging attacks by land, sea and air against ISIS militants, who are now encircled in city center.

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fire a rocket at ISIS fighters in Sirte, Libya, August 4, 2016.
Goran Tomasevic, Reuters

REUTERS — Libyan forces fighting to oust ISIS from their former North African stronghold of Sirte said they had made advances on Sunday in a coastal neighborhood after staging attacks by land, sea and air. 

The forces, led by brigades from the city of Misrata and aligned with the UN-backed government in Tripoli, secured several key sites in Sirte this week, their progress helped by U.S. air strikes against ISIS that began on August 1. 

ISIS militants are now encircled in Sirte's central residential areas. 

"The forces have made more progress in neighborhood Number Two, with help from artillery and from naval forces," spokesman Rida Issa said. Libyan jets carried out two air strikes, he said, and a picture posted by the forces on social media showed guns mounted on a tug boat involved in the operation. 

At least four members of the Misrata-led brigades were killed in Sunday's clashes and 32 were wounded, said Akram Gliwan, a spokesman for Misrata Central Hospital. 

The brigades said on Saturday that they had gained control of a radio building previously used by ISIS for broadcasting. The building is close to the Ouagadougou convention complex, a symbolic landmark in Sirte that the brigades seized this past week, raising the Libyan flag there in place of ISIS' black banner. 

As of Thursday, the United States had carried out 41 strikes targeting ISIS fighting positions, vehicles and weapons in Sirte.

ISIS took over Sirte last year, enforcing its ultra-hardline rule on the city and basing many foreign fighters there. The government-backed brigades launched their campaign to capture Sirte in May, counter-attacking after ISIS advanced up the coast toward Misrata.