VIDEO: Libyan Unity Forces Continue to Push out Islamic State from Sirte

Thu Aug 25, 2016 17:32:04

Libyan forces on Wednesday (August 24) prepared for what some in the military described as the “decisive” battle to oust Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL) from its former North African stronghold of Sirte.

The forces, mainly brigades from the city of Misrata, say they are close to capturing Sirte after taking most of the city in a three-month campaign and restricting militants to a shrinking residential area in the city center.

Since August 1, they have been supported by US airstrikes. “We are now preparing for the decisive phase (battle) which will commence in the coming hours, God willing, against the infidels to rid our beloved city from the Daesh (Islamic State),” one local military commander told Reuters. Reuters video showed soldiers cleaning and prepping weapons ahead of the battle.

The United States is carrying out air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS / Daesh / ISIL) positions in the city, a move that has accelerated the progress of Libyan forces, whose advance had been slowed by suicide bombings, snipers and mines.

Islamic State took control of Sirte last year, setting up a proto-state modeled on its practices in Iraq and Syria and enforcing its ultra-hardline rule on residents.

Losing the city would be a major blow for the group, although militants who escaped or are based elsewhere in Libya are expected to keep trying to exploit the country’s political turmoil and security vacuum.

Sirte, the home town of toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the last big city to fall in the 2011 uprising that overthrew him, sits in the center of Libya’s coast, midway between areas controlled since 2014 by rival governments in the east and west.

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