Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Remaining Islamic State fighters in Sirte Libya split into two groups

Forces of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure of BAM) have managed to completely separate into two groups the few remaining fighters of the Islamic State(IS) who still are holding out in one small section of Sirte.

On Friday, according to Brigadier Mohammed Al-Gosri, spokesperson for BAM, BAM forces had managed to take control of the dividing line between neighborhood 600 and the sea-view Jiza apartment buildings. This has disconnected IS fighters from each other and also cut aid routes to the group. Al Gosri said that the division will make it easier to defeat the few remaining IS fighters in Sirte. He also said that the BAM fighters found tunnels connecting various locations held by IS that were used to move within the city. Al-Gosri said he expected the final battle would take place within hours. Fighting was still going on on Sunday.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article giving details of how IS governed in Sirte, gleaned from records abandoned when they were overrun by BAM forces. They had a detailed tax code including special arrangements for herders: "A meticulous tax code found at another office showed how Islamic State funded itself at locals’ expense. Farmers were to turn over a calf if their herd reached 39 cows and a four-year-old camel if they owned up to 79 camels." The morality police also brought in revenue: "At the headquarters of the morality police, a dozen boxes filled with confiscated gold jewelry and stacks of money secured with rubber bands were scattered about. They are now in the hands of pro-government militias."
Over the weekend, at least eight BAM fighters were reported killed as they advanced into the 600 block faced with snipers and booby traps. The fighters advanced across two streets on Sunday but faced strong resistance. The offensive against Sirte and surrounding area has lasted five months now but must be almost finished. The IS held Sirte and the surrounding area for over a year now. Three women are shown surrendering here..
According to a report in Sputnik, more than 70 IS fighters were killed on Sunday. Local residents were said to have helped out by pointing out locations where IS fighters were sheltered. An account of action over the weekend can also be found here. If the casualty figures for the IS are correct, there must be well under a hundred IS fighters remaining. Since August the first, the U.S. has mounted over 200 bombing strikes on IS positions as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning. The operation is extended into October. There are also a few special forces from the U.K. and the U.S. providing help to BAM.