Libyan forces currently surrounding the remaining Islamic State, (Daesh) strongholds in Sirte have announced a fresh push in their five month long campaign to retake the city.
Over the weekend, forces belonging to the Bonyan Marsous, (the collective term for the militias currently allied with the UN backed government in Tripoli) have seized what they claim is a key district within the city, severing Daesh forces within it from the rest of the group’s fighters.
In circumstances that have come to typify Bonyan Marsous’ attempts to take the Sirte, over eight soldiers were killed by Daesh’ snipers and booby traps as they advanced upon the besieged areas of the city. Speaking to Reuters, Ali Almabrouk, a Misratan official, whose militia is currently leading the Bonyan Marsous said, “The forces of Bonyan Marsous made some advances and completely trapped the 600 block area in Sirte.”
According to Brigadier Mohammed Al-Gosri, control of the 600 block will isolate the Daesh forces within it from the sea-view Jiza apartment buildings, cutting aid routes between the two enclaves, the Libya Observer reported.
Several underground tunnels have also been discovered by Bonyan Marsous forces, which they say have allowed Daesh to operate throughout besieged areas of the city. The Observer also quoted Al-Gosri as saying that an Italian field hospital will open within the next few days to treat wounded fighters on the ground.
However, whatever advance the Bonyan Marsous can claim on Sirte, it has come at a heavy price for the militia grouping who, despite sustained US airstrikes, (261 as of yesterday) and international support on the ground have sustained high casualties in their near half year campaign to retake the city. According to some sources, 560 Bonyan Marsous fighters have been killed since their assault on Sirte commenced in May, with more than 2,750 injured so far.
Elsewhere, while the UN backed government in Tripoli and their allied militias have been focused primarily upon Sirte, the Libyan National Army, (LNA) under the command of the recently promoted, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, allied to Tripoli’s rival parliament in eastern Tobruk have seized control of many of the oil ports surrounding the city. This latest move essentially swings the diplomatic balance away from the UN Backed government in Tripoli and rests it heavily with lawmakers in Tobruk.