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Gains Against IS in Sirte ‘Hopeful Sign’


FILE - a man loyal to the Libyan armed forces prepares himself for clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi, Libya.

FILE - a man loyal to the Libyan armed forces prepares himself for clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi, Libya.

Forces aligned with Libya’s Government of National Accord are making solid progress in their effort to push the Islamic State terror group out of a key stronghold.

A few hundred Islamic State fighters remained holed up in parts of Sirte, but U.S. defense officials said Friday the terror group’s hold on the city is slipping.

“The progress that GNA-aligned forces have made in the past week, we think, is a very hopeful sign,” Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge said. “GNA-aligned forces have reduced territory in the city under ISIL control by about one-third.”

Map of Sirte, Libya, where U.S. airstrikes have targeted Islamic State extremists

Map of Sirte, Libya, where U.S. airstrikes have targeted Islamic State extremists

Backed by U.S. airstrikes, Libyan scored major victories in Sirte earlier this week when they captured the Ouagadougou convention center and several other key buildings, described by Pentagon officials as some of the most recognizable symbols of IS control.

The U.S. has carried out 42 airstrikes since August 1 as part of what has been called Operation Odyssey Lightning.

Defense officials said U.S. troops have been advising the Libyan forces from operation centers well behind the front lines to coordinate the strikes, which were requested by the GNA.

The U.S., Britain, France and Italy all have forces on the ground in Libya but say they have limited their help to meet only the specific requests of Libya’s United Nations’ backed government.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge told reporters the U.S. “would certainly listen to any requests” from the GNA in an expanded fight against IS fighters in Libya. Such a request has not yet been made.

The U.S. estimates the number of IS fighters still in Libya could be in the low thousands.

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