Pro-Govt. Forces Repel IS Counter-Attack in Libya's Sirte

Forces allied with Libya's unity government said Wednesday they had repelled a counter-attack by the Islamic State group in the jihadists' coastal stronghold of Sirte.

IS jihadists hit positions controlled by fighters loyal to Libya's U.N.-backed Government of National Accord west of the city with tank, mortar and sniper fire on Tuesday, according to a statement from the pro-GNA forces.

Five pro-government fighters were killed in the clashes and 37 wounded, it said.

Loyalist forces have battled since mid-May to oust IS from Sirte, 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, and the mix of militias and army units have seized control of its port and airport.

But their advance slowed at the end of last week as they reached central and northern parts of the city where IS fighters are holed up in residential areas.

The operation to retake Sirte has so far left 145 pro-GNA fighters dead and 500 injured, according to medical officials.

Pro-government forces said they had also opened a new front around the east of the city, hitting targets in the vicinity of the city's vast former conference center, now used by IS as a battlefield headquarters.

Jihadist groups took root in Libya in late 2014, taking advantage of the chaos and power struggles that followed the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in 2011.

Established in Tripoli more than two months ago, Libya's unity government has been struggling to unify violence-ridden Libya and exert its control over the North African country.

The operation against IS in Sirte enjoys wide support in western Libya, where many welcomed the GNA's installation in the capital Tripoli on March 30.

Source: Agence France Presse

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