Continuing its offensive against Islamic State (Isis), Libyan forces now claim to have entered the coastal city of Sirte, which is considered a key IS (Daesh) stronghold. They hope to take control of the city in the coming two to three days.
Mohamad Ghassri, spokesman for the forces of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), told AFP that their forces are currently in the centre of Sirte city and are involved in severe clashes with IS militants. "The operation will not last much longer. I think we'll be able to announce the liberation of Sirte in two or three days," he added.
In a Facebook post, GNA has reportedly claimed its forces "are in full control of Tagreft barracks and military engineers are inspecting the zone to clear anti-personnel mines." The post further stated that the clashes 20km outside Sirte has claimed six lives and 15 were wounded. The forces have also taken control of a second barracks, named Al-Jalet, and a bridge and an intersection that leads to the western entrance to the city of Sirte. The operations were reportedly backed by the Libyan air force.
The GNA statement further stated that anti-personnel mines and booby-trapped vehicles left behind by retreating IS militants could not slow down the advancement of GNA forces.
Al Jazeera reported that Rida Issa, the naval commander for central Libya, told AFP that their forces are in control of the entire coast of Sirte and that IS fighters "will not be able to flee by sea."
The military offensive against the militant group on Thursday was reportedly mounted from three directions that involved two militia brigades from Misrata, including Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos that was able to call up air support, and forces from the Petroleum Facilities Guard that mounted attacks from the west of the country and from Tripoli.
Air strikes targeted the Ouagadougou conference hall, which is considered to be the administrative hub of the IS in Libya. Videos posted on social media sites reportedly show Libyan forces flashing victory signs and chanting "Allahu Akbar" or "God is Great" as they drove around Sirte.
Meanwhile, GNA appealed to the West to provide urgent medical help for its wounded fighters as the offensive claimed more than 100 Libyan lives. About 490 people were also wounded during the operation to drive out the terror group from Sirte, The Guardian reported.