Islamic State Launches Wave of Suicide Attacks in Desperate Bid to Maintain Control of Libyan Stronghold

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is increasingly losing control of its largest stronghold outside of Iraq and Syria, the coastal Libyan city of Sirte, located a few hundreds of miles from the shores of Europe.

“They now hold just a few pockets of the city,” reports Agence-France Press (AFP).

Earlier this week ISIS claimed to control four neighborhoods in Sirte, but the Long War Journal adds, “that, in reality, [they] appear to be contested.”

Citing pro-government forces, AFP reports:

Islamic State group jihadists in Libya have carried out nine suicide bombings in one day [Tuesday] in a failed bid to hold a central district of Sirte…

The attacks on Tuesday in the coastal city left nine pro-government fighters dead and 82 wounded, said Reda Issa, a spokesman for forces allied with the unity government.

Reuters adds:

Suicide bombings against Libyan forces battling to oust Islamic State from their former North African stronghold of Sirte killed at least 12 fighters and wounded about 60 there on Thursday, a hospital spokesman said.

Forces, mainly composed of fighters aligned with a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, have been closing in on the center of Sirte, where militants now control a shrinking residential area.

Fighters aligned with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya launched an offensive in mid-May with the assistance of the United States and other Western nations to retake the city. The Libyan troops inaccurately claimed to have cleared Sirte in June.

On Thursday, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that the United States has carried out 62 “precision” airstrikes since Aug. 1 in support of the GNA’s “Operation Odyssey Lightning,” which is focused on to rooting out ISIS from its stronghold in Sirte, Libya.

The United States bombed 13 “enemy fighting positions” and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) on August 17 alone.

“These actions, and those we have taken previously, will help deny Daesh a safe haven in Libya from which it could attack the United States and our allies,” declared AFRICOM.

On Sunday, ISIS claimed it still controlled four neighborhoods in Sirte, a claim that is consistent with recent assessments by the GNA allied forces fighting to clear the city, collectively known as Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”), reports the Long War Journal.

An ISIS infographic of the areas it controls also shows that the jihadist group is surrounded, adds the report.

The Long War Journal also points out:

Despite losing ground, the Islamic State continues to launch suicide bombings and other attacks inside the city. The Islamic State’s fighters have carried out a string of VBIED attacks since the offensive against Sirte began in May. The American precision airstrikes have taken out some of these VBIEDs, but not all of them…

Even as the Islamic State detonates VBIEDs inside Sirte, Al Bunyan Al Marsoos is emphasizing a return to normalcy in parts of the city.

The U.S.-backed Libyan forces are advancing on Sirte’s central District Two, notes AFP.

Sirte fell under the control of the Islamic State, also known as IS, in June 2015.

“Last week the pro-government fighters seized a conference center in the city used by IS as its command center,” notes AFP.

Reuters adds:

Last week the forces, who are directed from Misrata about 230 km (143 miles) from Sirte, made big gains, securing a number of large buildings and complexes in the town that had been used by Islamic State snipers.

On Twitter, the U.S.-backed Libya forces posted photos purportedly showing fighters from advancing into Sirte:


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