Saturday, October 22, 2016

U.S. ups air attacks on the Islamic State in Sirte Libya

Although the final push to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte began some time ago and their imminent defeat has been announced a number of times, a few IS fighters still remain surrounded in the city in an increasingly smaller area.

In order to soften up IS positions before each advance of the Al Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) forces, the U.S. has targeted snipers and IS positions as part of its Operation Odyssey Lightning that began back on the beginning of August. Just in the last four days, the U.S. has carried out 51 airstrikes. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said that this was some of the heaviest bombing since the operation began. AFRICOM said that in all about 155 targets were hit, mostly enemy fighting positions.
The BAM forces are mostly brigades from the city of Misrata and are loyal to the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). The U.S. airstrikes are in support of the Sirte offensive. There are also some special forces from the U.K. and the U.S. who are helping out on the ground. The attacks are launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. Since the U.S. operation began it has carried out 261 airstrikes. The Stars and Stripes suggests that there are perhaps fewer than 200 IS fighters left in Sirte.
There were gains against IS on Friday when the group was split into two and on the weekend. On Tuesday BAM forces are reported to have begun advancing again. Mohamed Abdulla a pro-government fighter claimed that BAM forces are making progress every day but needed better care for their wounded. BAM forces have faced fierce opposition from snipers, suicide vehicle attacks, and booby traps. The cost to BAM forces has been heavy. Some sources put the tally at 560 BAM fighters killed plus more than 2,750 injured so far.
Spokesperson for BAM, Muhammad Al-Ghusri said on Wednesday: “The remaining IS militants are not positioned in a combat mode, they are rather cornered, lost and perplexed in a very small area in the city. A coordinated work between our air force and ground troops has paid off and all IS militants are waiting for their death at any minute as they lie trapped in a very small area in Sirte – an area that is encircled by our forces. IS radicals have now two options; surrender or die.”Al-Ghusri claimed that all possible exits have been closed off and there is no way the remaining fighters can escape.

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