Libyan forces fight off ISIL counter-attack in Sirte

by WorldTribune Staff, June 15, 2016

Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) launched a counter-attack aimed at regaining ground lost in its Libyan stronghold but was repelled by forces aligned with the country’s unity government.

ISIL on June 13 unleashed tank, mortar and sniper fire on positions west of the city controlled by a mix of militia and army forces aligned with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The pro-GNA forces were able to fend off the ISIL onslaught, but lost five fighters and 37 more were wounded in the clashes.

Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government fire during clashes with ISIL at the western entrance to Sirte. /Getty Images
Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government fire during clashes with ISIL at the western entrance to Sirte. /Getty Images

Pro-GNA forces have battled since mid-May to drive ISIL from Sirte, but their advance slowed at the end of last week as they reached central and northern parts of the city where the terror organization’s jihadists control residential areas.

Medical officials said 145 pro-GNA fighters have been killed and 500 injured in the battle to liberate Sirte.

The report of the ISIL attack came shortly after the UN Security Council authorized a European Union naval mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya.

The UN resolution allows EU naval forces to inspect ships to and from Libya “which they have reasonable grounds to believe are carrying arms or related material to or from Libya.”

Despite having a population of only 6 million, there are an estimated 20 million pieces of weaponry in the country, UN envoy Martin Kobler told the Security Council last week.

“The existing arms embargo has not fully stopped the flow of weapons. Illicit weapons are undermining the peace and security of the region,” Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, told the Council. “They are enabling terrorists to murder, to maim, to bring yet more chaos to the people of Libya and the region — people who have suffered for too long.”