Forces aligned with Libya’s UN-backed government are battling Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL , IS and Daesh) to win control of a strategic conference center in the coastal city of Sirte.
Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh) is clinging onto the center of Sirte following a two-month campaign by brigades mainly composed of fighters from the western city of Misrata.
Their progress has been slowed by resistance from militants holed up in a 5 km area in central Sirte.
On Monday (July 18), troops surrounded the Ouagadougou conference hall in central Sirte as Libyan jets pounded Islamic State positions in the city. Losing Sirte would represent a major setback for ISIS, which established its most important base outside Syria and Iraq in the Libyan city.
“The militant group expanded into Libya amid the political chaos and security vacuum that developed after long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an uprising in 2011.“
Sirte had been under the militant group’s control since last year, and it had extended its presence along about 250 km (155 miles) of coastline.
At least 20 members of the government-backed forces were killed and 120 wounded in fighting in Sirte on Friday (July 15), one of the higher tolls in recent weeks of fighting.
The Ouagadougou hall became a key site for Islamic State as it imposed its ultra-hardline rule over Sirte, using the center for meetings and religious instruction.
The United Nations-backed government moved to Tripoli three months ago in an attempt to unify two rival administrations and various armed factions.