Sunday, May 22, 2016

Misrata militia gain back territory from the Islamic State

Military forces from Misrata have recaptured a key checkpoint south of Misrata from the Islamic State (IS) reversing some of the gains made by the IS earlier this month.

The Islamic State(IS) had taken the checkpoint at Abu Grain back on May 5, advancing while the Misrata group were waiting for the GNA to form a unified command. They also took several surrounding villages. In recapturing Abu Grain, seven members of GNA forces were killed and 19 wounded according to Aziz Issa, a spokesperson for Misrata hospital. The hospital claims it is running short of supplies. Some of the wounded with critical injuries have been flown by the Italian Air Force to a military hospital in Rome for treatment.
Abu Grain is 140 kilometers or about 85 miles from Sirte the last larger city stronghold of Islamic State, and the former home town of Gadaffi. Mohamed al-Gasri a spokesperson for the GNA Operation Room noted that the area was not yet under full control of GNA forces: "There are skirmishes from time to time against the militants. We will keep making progress to clean Abu Grain town of those militants".
The Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar announced over two weeks ago that it was launching a two-pronged attack on the eastern borders of the IS and intended to liberate Sirte. So far its only battle has been near Zilla in the south, with a militia associated with Misrata. The IS has been free to concentrate on fighting with the Misrata militias. Haftar is busy launching Operation Volcano, trying to drive out the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists who had been fighting the Islamic State for ages and helped defeat them on the outskirts of Derna. Even after IS retreated, Haftar still launched air attacks on the city. He now is surrounding the city and launching more air attacks. He has no time to launch air attacks on Sirte or attack IS even though his troops have advanced as far as Ras Lanuf, not far from IS territory.
The media bureau of the Operations Chamber of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos a GNA force said that it is now at Al-Wishka a town 25 kilometers east of the Abu Grain district. Their forces are also said to be clashing with IS militants at Al-Khamseen checkpoint which is just 50 kilometers to the west of Sirte. They are said to be receiving air cover from the air force of the General Staff. Among those killed in recent clashes was colonel Ibrahim Abdel Alli who was chief of the military engineering brigade. While Haftar has an excellent opportunity to attack IS from the east, there is no sign of his doing so. His actions are helping the Islamic State who apparently have no fear of an attack from the east allowing them to concentrate on fighting with the Misrata militia. Perhaps if the Islamic State starts to give up much ground suddenly Haftar will join the fray to capture territory for the House of Representatives (HoR) government.


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