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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Forces loyal to GNA continue to advance in Sirte but with losses

Forces of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) allied with the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord are making some progress against the Islamic State (IS) encircled in the city of Sirte but are suffering significant casualties in the process.

One report claims the Solid Structure forces, mostly militia from Misrata, lost four of their troops on Friday in fighting in the port area as militants tried to flee by sea. Ten IS fighters were said to be killed. The offensive was launched last month and ground was quickly recaptured, with the remaining IS fighters surrounded in the middle of the city. Progress has slowed as the troops have met fierce resistance by snipers and suicide bombers. Rida Issa, spokesperson for Solid Structure, said:
 "Brigades of Bonyan Marsous intercepted a group of Islamic State militants on Friday attempting to escape from the coastal side of the city, The clashes were massive and have resulted in four troops killed and 24 wounded. After the clashes ended, our forces found about 10 bodies of militants."The GNA has no official national army but brigades of former rebel militia who often turn against each other and whose loyalty to the GNA may be questionable.
Another report indicates that the IS has taken over a hotel on the coast and is positioning snipers on top of it and other buidlings. On Wednesday, the Solid Structure forces suffered serious casualties, with 35 soldiers killed and over 150 injured. Nevertheless the pro-GNA forces have been able to repel counter-attacks and advance further. Hamza Hassan a fighter from the Misrata 166 Brigade said:“The only problem we’re facing is suicide car bombs. We’re taking out their tires, firing heavy weapons at them and closing roads The guerrilla warfare is similar to 2011 but these are a different breed of people. They put their hands in the air so you think they’re surrendering and then detonate themselves.”Hassam's brigade is charged with preventing IS fighters from escaping by sea. The IS has not been able to use larger ships due to efforts to prevent boats from leaving the harbor. Drones are being used to locate snipers with the equipment being provided by special forces from the UK and US. The Islamic State may not last past Ramadan which ends in just over two weeks.
Spokesperson for the Solid Structure, Mohammed Al-Ghasri claims that the next two days will see the fighters enter the penultimate stage in the battle against the IS in Sirte. He said the IS fighters either had to surrender or die. He noted: “IS militants are still holing up in front of Sirte hospital and parts from neighborhoods 1 and 2, barricading themselves in few areas within a 5km space.” He said the group needed mine-sweeping tools and better support for the injured.


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