Forces loyal to GNA ready to attack Islamic State headquarters in Sirte Libya

The forces of Al-Bonyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure) or BAM, loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNA) have now reached a decisive phase as they begin an attack on the Islamic State headquarters in Sirte.

The media of Al-Bonyan Al-Marsous claims that the key 700 neighborhood has now been taken and the sprawling headquarters of the Islamic State, the Ouagadougou center, is now under attack. The center was built by Gadaffi in his hometown of Sirte to host conferences. The media office claims that the fighting will rage in the coming days. Most of the forces are members of Misrata militia. Suicide attacks, snipers, and improvised explosive devices have slowed the advance against the remaining IS fighters.
There are already reports of casualties from fighting at the IS headquarters: ‏"@Lyobserver 2 fighters killed, 25 others injured as fierce fighting to retake Ouagadougou Conference Hall continues". An earlier tweet has photos of the BAM forces in the 700 neighborhood: "‏@LibyaschannelEN #BunyanMarsus OpsRoom publishes photos from #Area700 now under control & advance toward #Ouagadougou center #Sirte " Another tweet indicates that the Conference Hall is about to be taken over by BAM forces: ‏@Lyobserver Reports: Strategic IS building of Ouagadougou Conference Hall is about to fall into the hands of Misrata-led forces
Sirte was taken last year by the Islamic State along with a considerable stretch of coastline to the east and west. Now two months into an offensive by forces loyal to the GNA, mostly militia from Misrata, the IS is encircled in a confined area in the middle of Sirte. The Misratan commanders are reluctant to advance too rapidly because they risk high casualties both to themselves and civilians being used as human shields by the IS. Most of the fighters feel let down by the GNA as they lack helmets, flak jackets, and night vision equipment. They do have support from small numbers of special forces from the UK and the US. A local commander said: "Everyone knows we are fighting here with basic weapons, it was a lie that they said they would help us, But we can finish this war ourselves." Yet the GNA has yet to request assistance for them. Many in the GNA worry that the Misrata militia gain too much power and perhaps end up fighting with Khalifa Haftar, the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). In the past Haftar has regarded all militia associated with the GNA as his enemies and certainly the Misrata militia are opposed to Haftar. Both Haftar and the HoR have so far not recognized the GNA and Haftar has refused to be part of a unified command under the Presidential Council of the GNA. However, he has changed his position of late and claims he could cooperate with some GNA militia. There have been numerous meetings of the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA but all but two lacked a quorum. The other two were disrupted with no vote. It is not clear when the next meeting will happen.
Western officials had estimated that about 6,000 IS fighters had massed in Sirte with many recruits from foreign countries including Tunisia and other African countries. The Misrata militia claim the figure was far too high and that the number was closer to 2,000 with probably as few as 600 left surrounded in the center of the city. The militants took over city institutions such as banks. They forced merchants to pay a tax and set up their own Islamic court. Barbers were banned from shaving off beards. Mohamed Gnaidy intelligence chief for the Misrata forces said: "We know this is not just a fight against the group in Sirte. After Sirte other pockets will appear, We know they could stage suicide attacks, bombs on other cities."


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