IS loses Sirte | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 07, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:58 PM, December 06, 2016

IS loses Sirte

Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed government said Monday they had seized full control of Sirte from the Islamic State group, in a major blow to the jihadists who fought for months to retain their bastion.

The battle for the coastal city, which was the last significant territory held by IS in Libya, cost the lives of hundreds of loyalist troops and an unknown number of IS fighters.

The offensive was backed by a US bombing campaign launched in August, which as of December 1 had seen American warplanes, drones and helicopters carry out 470 strikes.

"Our forces have total control of Sirte," Reda Issa, a spokesman for pro-government forces, told AFP. "Our forces saw Daesh (IS) totally collapse."

"Our forces are combing the last pockets and carrying out a major operation to trap those trying to flee," said the spokesman, adding that around 30 jihadists had surrendered.

Issa said a public announcement of "the liberation of Sirte" would follow within hours "once the last jihadist has been wiped out".

Forces allied with the country's unity government began the offensive to retake Sirte on May 12, quickly seizing large areas of the city and cornering the jihadists.

But IS put up fierce resistance with suicide car bombings, snipers and improvised explosive devices.

The country descended into chaos following the Nato-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth.

The infighting and lawlessness allowed extremist groups such as IS to seize several coastal regions. The fall of Sirte is a major setback for IS, which has also faced a series of military defeats in Syria and Iraq.

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