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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Offensive against Islamic State in Sirte resumes

The forces of the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) resumed their final push against the few remnants of the Islamic State(IS) in Libya cornered in a small central area of Sirte, their former stronghold.

The offensive against the Islamic State began back on the 12th of May. The offensive advanced very quickly at first until the BAM forces entered the city of Sirte. There the advance was much slower as BAM forces faced fierce resistance and were attacked with many suicide vehicles packed with explosives. There were many snipers and booby-traps everywhere. Since August 1, US airstrikes have aided the ground forces and there are a few special forces present from the UK and the US. Still the IS forces have continued to resist with the end of the battle predicted much earlier. There may be fewer than one hundred IS fighters left in a small area of about a square kilometer. In total, the casualty count is more than 450 BAM fighters, mostly from the city of Misrata brigades, and 2,500 wounded. The Misrata hospital has been overwhelmed and some wounded have been sent out of the country.
In today's clashes,ten IS fighters were reported killed when they tried to escape and others were apparently being chased. However, 8 BAM fighters were also reported killed, as well as 24 wounded, according to the hospital in Misrata.
An Italian journalist was also earlier reported killed but this turned out not to be the case. A Dutch photo-journalist, Jeroen Oerlemans was killed when shot in the chest by a sniper while he was covering today's clashes.
In preparation for the BAM advance, the US had carried out six attacks on IS posiitons on Saturday. Since the first of August US aircraft have carried out 177 airstrikes in support of the BAM forces according to the US Africa Command. The US mission called Odyssey Lightning has been extended for another month. GNA air force planes from Misrata were also said to have conducted raids to prepare for the offensive. One report says that 6 strikes were carried out on Sunday morning before the offensive began.
The Libya Observer reports that IS militants attacked a checkpoint of Brigade 166 in the south of Sirte. The attackers hoped to break the siege of their comrades who were trapped in the city. The attack was made at dawn. However, the attack failed and at least 60 militants were killed. The Oberserver has a photo of bodies of the IS fighters piled up in the box of a pickup. Military sources said: "The ISIS convoy came from the desert, all the attackers were foreigners, they were all killed." No doubt these fighters fled Sirte earlier.
By some estimates there are only about 100 IS fighters left in Sirte, so the battle should be finished soon. A recent tweet citing somewhat different casualty figures has some photos from Sirte: #Libya | Impressive pictures of #Sirte, destroyed, from the social medias. So far 7 killed and at least 57 injured in the clashes of today.


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