Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Remmants of Islamic State fighters in Sirte refuse to surrender

Forces of the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) are advancing against the last holdouts of the Islamic State in Sirte. BAM forces are mostly brigades from Misrata and are loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

The "final offensive" has been going on for some with fighting resumed today after a relative calm. The remnants of the Islamic State fighters are now cornered in just one area of Sirte. The offensive began in May and has been helped since the offensive stalled in Sirte by U.S. airstrikes that began on August 1.
Even at this late stage, the few remaining IS fighters refuse to surrender and are resisting with sniper, car bombs, mines and shelling, taking a heavy toll on the BAM forces. The BAM forces claim to have captured several buildings today as well as destroying an IS car bomb before it reached its target. A recent tweet claims: "Breaking News: Misrata-led forces retake Eddekhar Bank, Madina Hotel and Central Bank of Libya branch in Sirte’s residential district 3." A tweet also reports the casualties: "BAM, OTOH, advanced on the western edge of District 3, at the cost of 7 killed and 30 wounded today." Bodies of 10 IS fighters were found in a school building. Another tweet reports higher casualties: "Casualties today in Sirte #Libya: 9 dead (8 Misrata, 1 Zliten) and over 70 injured on Bunyan Marsous side, mainly from #ISIS/Daesh car bombs."
Earlier this year, the IS lost their other stronghold, Derna in eastern Libya, to rival Islamist groups. With the loss of Sirte, the IS will no longer control any cities in Libya. There may be cells throughout the country. Some appear to be in the area of the city of Bani Walid.
The U.S. bombing campaign called Operation Odyssey Lightning has been extended for another month to the end of September. The Sirte battle should be finished soon but perhaps the U.S. planes will find some IS fighters moving throughout the country to attack. A tweet reports on U.S. attacks today: #Libya-#Sirte: #US reportedly conducted 4 combat missions today incl. targeting 3 #ISIS snipers.
The BAM forces have had some support from small numbers of special forces from the U.K. and the U.S., as well as forces from the Petroleum Facilities Guard(PFG) who captured several towns east of Sirte earlier on in the campaign. Although General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army associated with the Al-Thinni government of the House of Representatives (HoR), announced that he would march on Sirte to liberate it, he ended up not participating at all. Haftar refuses to recognize the GNA or the armed forces of the GNA. The PFG supports the GNA.


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