Sunday, August 7, 2016

Forces loyal to Libyan unity government capture bomb factory in Sirte

Forces of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure, or BAM), loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) continue to advance slowly against the encircled remnants of Islamic State (IS) fighters in the center of Sirte.

On Sunday July 24, the BAM forces seized a building that was being used by the IS as a bomb factory. On their Facebook page the BAM forces showed rooms that contained explosive devices, mobile phones, and cables. The building is the largest captured recently. While IS resistance was predicted to end days ago, they still appear to be resisting strongly. Since the offensive against Sirte started in May more than 280 troops have been killed many belonging to brigades from the city of Misrata. More than 1500 have been wounded.Another source claims a casualty total of more than 300 killed and more than 1,300 wounded.
A report in the Wall Street Journal says that BAM forces reported they had seized the security headquarters of the IS in Sirte, which they called a crucial step towards retaking complete control of the city that the IS had held for 16 months, and is the last city they control. Earlier they had controlled Derna but were driven out mostly by rival jihadists earlier this year. Libyan commanders said that the area controlled by the IS had been reduced to just two square miles within the city. The security headquarters are a complex in an area where the BAM forces have been trying to enter for weeks.
The BAM fighters have often complained that they receive little aid from the GNA. However, there do seem to be a few UK and US special forces helping out. France recently lost 3 military personnel when a helicopter was shot down or crashed while helping out the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar fight against the Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB) who oppose Haftar. Haftar does not recognize the GNA and the BAM militia he would consider terrorists. Haftar has done nothing to help liberate Sirte although he announced many weeks ago that he was going to do so.
The resistance to the BAM forces has been fierce and any advance is slowed by snipers, suicide bombers, and land mines. The IS is also using civilians as a shield. BAM has been reluctant to use too much heavy artillery for fear it could cause many civilian casualties. There has been considerable close combat using lighter weapons and armored vehicles. A senior officer said that they were trying to minimize casualties among their own troops. Not too long ago western quarters were worrying about the advance of the IS in Libya and how they might be required to intervene to stop them. However, it seems only a matter of days or a week or so before the IS will have lost its last territory held in Libya.

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