US-backed Libyan forces have captured Islamic State (Isis) strongholds in the city of Sirte, it was announced on Wednesday (10 August). Libyan forces captured the Ouagadougou Convention Complex, which Isis had been using as a base, and the University of Sirte in the centre of the city.
"Our forces have complete control of the whole of the Ouagadougou complex – they even advanced some distance beyond the complex," said Rida Issa, a spokesman in the Libyan forces' media office.
According to Reuters, the convention complex was used by IS (Daesh) for meetings and religious instruction after it gained control of the city in 2015. The capture of the Ouagadougou convention centre, as well as the University of Sirte, marks a significant victory for the forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord, Foreign Policy reported.
The forces have been aided by US special operations personnel and air strikes. The US launched air strikes on 1 August on Sirte, the home city of late dictator Muammar Gadhafi. US Africa Command revealed that US drones and fighter jets have carried out 29 strikes to target several IS posts.
According to Foreign Policy, US special operators have been seen on the ground near the fighting but are not believe to be directly engaged in battle. Isis reportedly had as many as 6,000 fighters in Libya, centered in Sirte, earlier this year, but those numbers have dropped to the hundreds.
Libyan forces began their offensive for Sirte in May. The advance was slowed due to major causalities from IS landmines and snipers.
The terror organisation continues to control several residential areas throughout the coastal city and the forces, led by brigades from Misrata, have had difficulties advancing though neighbourhoods.
Issa also told reporters that the forces had advanced to a section of unfinished blocks west of the city centre, known as the "bone buildings" that were being used by IS snipers. At least 16 fighters from the government-backed forces died and another 11 were injured.
Earlier on 10 August, the forces lost a fighter jet over Sirte. Issa said the fate of the crew or the cause of the crash could not be confirmed. However, IS claimed responsibility for shooting down the jet and killing a pilot.