by WorldTribune Staff, June 10, 2016
Forces aligned with Libya’s unity government advanced on Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’s (ISIL’s) stronghold at Sirte on June 9 but were stopped from entering the city center by the terror group’s snipers.
Brigades of fighters from the western city of Misrata succeeded in driving ISIL back along the coastal road west of Sirte before seizing strategic points on the edge of the city.
As government forces advanced from the west, the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), a separate militia that controls terminals in Libya’s oil crescent, moved in from the east to reach the town of Harawa, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) east of Sirte.
Mohamed al-Gasri, a military spokesman based in Misrata, said “we think that Sirte will be liberated within days, not weeks,” Gasri said. “The Daesh (ISIL) snipers are a concern to us because they shoot from long distances and that has hindered us in the battle inside the city.”
The brigades have seized control of an air base, several military camps and a roundabout in Sirte where ISIL had previously hung the bodies of executed enemies.
On June 8, 15 fighters from the Misrata brigades were killed and 95 injured, a Misrata hospital spokesman said.
While U.S. special operations personnel have been in Libya for months in an advisory role, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the United States has not made any decision regarding greater U.S. military involvement.
“We haven’t made any additional decisions about U.S. action at this point. We’re obviously watching it very closely and (are) very encouraged by what we see,” Cook told a news briefing.
The unity government continues to face resistance from political and military leaders in Libya’s east, including eastern military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has been conducting a campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi for the past two years.
Heavy fighting and air strikes have continued there over the past two days, with at least eight of Haftar’s forces killed, medical and security officials said.
In an effort to pry support away from Haftar, the unity government appointed another eastern commander, Mahdi al-Barghathi, as minister of defense.