Friday, June 24, 2016

Islamic State counter-attacks in Libyan stronghold of the Islamic State Sirte

Three vehicles driven by Islamic State suicide bombers, targeted Albinyan Almarsoos (Solid Structure) forces in Sirte. The forces are loyal to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord.

The forces, mostly militia from Misrata, have hemmed in the Islamic State within a 5 square kilometer area of Sirte. They have captured the port, the airport , and several military camps. However, they have had to fend off a counter attack at the port. There are numerous booby traps and suicide bombings.
The Solid Structure forces entered Sirte on Wednesday. Forces from the Petroleum Facilities Guard are advancing from the east as well. Sirte was seized by IS last year and had become its main base of operations after Derna a city it also held for some time saw the Derna Shura Council drive them out. The Islamic State has also been losing ground in Syria and Iraq.
A spokesperson for the government forces, Reda Issa said that two of the bombings hit gatherings of pro-government forces and that the third struck a field hospital. Issa said that at least one person was killed and four wounded in the attacks. Several military vehicles were also damaged. The forces are engaging in heavy street fighting with the militants, deploying tanks, rocket launchers and artillery. They have also carried out dozens of air raids. Some reports claim that three people were killed at the field hospital and over seven wounded.
The headquarters of the IS is a sprawling conference centre from the Gaddafi-era. The militants are using snipers, mortar rounds, and suicide bombers to counter the offensive. A medical official in Misrata said Saturday that at least 137 fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord(GNA) have been killed and up to 500 wounded since the offensive begum on May 12. However, the IS have lost virtually all their territory around Sirte that before was quite extensive.
While foreign intelligence services have estimated that IS has up to 5,000 fighters in Libya, they do not appear to be in Sirte, and the numbers may be exaggerated in order to portray IS as more or a threat than it was. Many of the IS fighters may already have fled. There could very well be terrorist attacks in Tripoli and elsewhere. A recent tweet indicates that a suicide bombing took place south of Sirte.:" Oded Berkowitz ‏@Oded121351 5h5 hours ago#Libya- #ISIS suicide bomber reportedly detonated in Qasr Abu-Hadi, ~15km SE of #Sirte, earlier today ". The US praised the rapid progress against IS. Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) said in a tweet that he was impressed by the rapid progress made by the pro-GNA. Both US and UK special forces are reported to be providing intelligence support for the operation. The presence of IS along the Libyan coast has been a concern to southern European nations, especially Italy and Malta.
The liberation of Sirte has been accomplished without the help of the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA)commanded by Khalifa Haftar. The LNA are the armed forces of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives ( HoR) a rival government to the GNA. Haftar announced more than three weeks ago that he was on the march to liberate Sirte. He has yet to have a single clash with them. Instead he has been busy attacking the city of Derna and its Shura Council Jihadists, who were instrumental in liberating Derna from the IS. He is also fighting in Benghazi. Haftar refuses to recognize the GNA and will not join a unified command unless all the militia associated with the GNA are disbanded.
The HoR was scheduled to meet today to vote confidence in the GNA. However, a recent tweet shows that once again there will be no vote: "No HoR session today due to the lack of quorum. Around 70 members & Agilah Saleh were present. Saleh's two deputies were not there. #Libya" Note that the two deputies who have constantly complained about the lack of a vote did not even show up. However, Saleh, who was there, has been sanctioned by the EU for obstructing the vote process. There have been numerous previous meetings with no quorum and two that were disrupted before a vote could be taken. Until there is a vote of confidence the GNA term does not start. The HoR will be the legislature of the GNA so until a vote the GNA is a government without a legislature.

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