CAIRO - Forces loyal to Libya’s new “national unity” government in Tripoli have reportedly made gains inside the Islamic State-held coastal city of Sirte, while forces loyal to the rival government in Tobruk say they have pushed back al-Qaida militants in Benghazi.
Militiamen loyal to the “unity” government captured two districts inside Sirte amid heavy fighting and reports of casualties on both sides.
Ahmed Hadiya, a spokesman for pro-government military forces in Sirte, told Libyan TV that battles took place in several areas.
He says pro-government militiamen had pushed IS fighters out of the Zafran and Gharbiyat districts and cornered them in small pockets of the 700 district and the Ouagadougou conference center.
Islamic State fighters were reported to be fighting fiercely, despite recent losses, using car bombs, suicide attackers and other booby-trapped objects.
A government militia commander in Sirte told journalists that IS fighters had booby-trapped vehicles and shops to stop the government advance into the city.
The Libya Herald newspaper reported that 170 pro-government militiamen have been killed and over 700 injured since the start of the military operation dubbed “Bunyan al Marsous,” to retake Sirte.
The paper added that many of the casualties in the fighting were taken to Misrata Central Hospital, where doctors refused to allow journalists to take photos. It indicated that many of the wounded had suffered “horrific” injuries and that conditions at the hospital were poor because of shortages of drugs, antibiotics and even nurses.
Arab media also reported heavy fighting inside Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi, as forces loyal to the government in Tobruk fought to expel Islamic militants loyal to al-Qaida. Heavy clashes against the militants took place in the nearby port of Ajdabiya several days ago.
A spokesman for Libyan military units in the east of the country, loyal to army commander Khalifa Haftar, told journalists that his forces were advancing against the militants near the districts of Sabari and Souq al-Hout, near Benghazi. The Libyan army has made similar claims of gains against militants in Benghazi in the past.
Forces loyal to General Haftar have also carried out airstrikes against Islamic militant positions near Ajdabiya and the eastern militant stronghold of Darna in recent days.