The Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) forces loyal to the UN--backed Government of National Accord appear about to finish off the remaining Islamic State fighters in the city of Sirte where they are surrounded in a confined area.
The BAM forces report that they have taken control of the key Ouagadougou Center in Sirte that the Islamic State has been using as its headquarters and had so far been able to fend off attacks. The University of Sirte was first to be liberated in fighting today. The Ibn Sina Hospital was also taken. A recent tweet says: Breaking News: "Misrata-led forces are now combing through the Ouagadougou Conference Halls in #Sirte" Most of the BAM forces are brigades from Misrata. Another tweet reports: The first picture of the Ouagadougou center in #Sirte. Still clashes inside and near the center."
However, a fighter plane was lost during the offensive. The IS claimed to have shot it down but it could have crashed due to technical problems as the planes are quite old. The pilot was reported killed. This is the second plane lost over Sirte as an MiG was lost back on June 2 earlier in the offensive.
The US has been aiding the offensive with airstrikes since August 1. On Monday it carried out 8 airstrikes according to the Africa Command. The total now is 28. More strikes have been carried out since then but are not yet tallied. Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, Faiez Serraj, said that the battle in Sirte should be over in a few weeks. However, with the taking of the headquarters it may be even sooner. Serraj said that foreign ground troops would not be needed. Yet there are already special forces from a number of countries already operating in Libya as this tweet notes: "Serraj to Corriere Della Sera, “We do not need foreign troops on Libyan soil.” US,UK,Italy, France confirm ground troops operate in #Libya." Corriere Della Sera is an Italian newspaper. Serraj said: “Our soldiers had been highly successful in recent times against the men of the Caliphate” Serraj also said that the request for US help came direct from the BAM fighters. Actually, it cane through the GNA.
He thanked Italy for allowing the US to use the Sigonetta air base in Sicily to launch attacks on IS. Although he said that Libya did not need more military help it needed help from Italy to treat those wounded in the offensive as Libyan hospitals were overwhelmed.
Fighters allied to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) are making preparations for the final battle against the Islamic State in their last stronghold, the city of Sirte.
The last of the Islamic State (IS) fighters left in Sirte are surrounded in an area of about 5 square miles. The Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure or BAM) forces are mostly brigades from the city of Misrata. The GNA government said in a statement: "The countdown of the final stage of the military operations against Daesh has started. The operation's leaders held intensive meetings to prepare for the final and decisive battles to eradicate the Daesh gang from the city of Sirte." Daesh is the Arabic name for the Islamic State.
The IS has occupied Sirte for over a year.The offensive against Sirte began in May and the city was entered in June but since then progress has met fierce resistance. Almost a month ago it was announced that IS resistance in the city was expected to end in a few days. The IS still hold their headquarters in the Ouagdougou Conference center. However, since Monday, at the request of the GNA, the U.S. has carried out air strikes that have further weakened the IS defences. During the operation to liberate Sirte, about 300 BAM forces have been killed and 1,800 wounded.
The GNA air force needs help from the west so that it could become more efficient. If it had been strengthened as has happened to the rival air force of Khalifa Haftar, the GNA could probably have already defeated the IS on their own. Perhaps the GNA wants to show they can enlist foreign help as Haftar has had from France, UAE, and Egypt.The Bunyan Marsoos news media office said that the US carried out four air strikes today against sniper positions. They deny some reports that claim some BAM fighters had been killed or injured. Some speculate that the US attacks are meant to drive remaining IS fighters into the conference center and then subject the headquarters to a devastating attack. UK special forces are reported to be helping out in the offensive. There is video footage of what the US has called Operation Odyssey Lightning here.
Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) forces, mostly militia from Misrata have captured the port in the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic State, the city of Sirte.
The remaining Islamic State fighters are now entirely surrounded within the city. Many had already escaped the city. Earlier numbers placed the numbers of IS fighters at up to 6,000 but this appears an exaggeration.
A residential area in the east of the city was also taken. The fall of Sirte would leave IS without any significant territory in Libya although it could still launch terror attacks and has some presence in Benghazi yet it would seem. Sirte was the home town of Gadaffi and there are many loyalists there.
Fighting is said to be raging around a conference center, the Islamic State headquarters. Air strikes were carried out on the center. It is reported that 11 of the militia forces were killed and 45 wounded on Friday.
Hospitals are overcrowded and in need of medical supplies and apparently planes carrying wounded to Italy have not been allowed to land. Flights to Italy and elsewhere to treat the wounded are being blocked by NATO as mentioned in this tweet: "Outrageous: UN US EU NATO applaud Misrata for battling #ISIS @ Sirte #Libya while blocking evacuation of war wounded"
Brett McGurk, Barack Obama's anti-ISIS envoy said that numbers of ISIS in Libya had probably plateaued at 5,000. There are certainly not that many left in Sirte. McGurk said:“I just don’t want to get ahead of the situation because it remains pretty fluid. But we’re encouraged by the progress they’re making. Once you have a credible force on the ground that moves against them, there is a chance that they could crack pretty quickly".
A recent tweet notes: ISIS in Sirte and their territory that a month ago extended 250km along the coast. Now ISIS is besieged in 20km-square area within #Sirte" The appended map also shows the huge shrinkage in territory controlled by ISIS since May. McGurk is behind the times. Another recent tweet indicates that clashes are ongoing on all fronts: Clashes all fronts East, West & South, heavy clashes within the city of #Sirte - suggestions city will be liberated within days/hrs. #Libya
McGurk said that the US was willing to work with General Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the rival House of Representatives (HoR) But McGurk made it clear that Haftar had to recognize the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord(GNA). Haftar has made it clear he will not do so until the HoR gives a vote of confidence in the GNA. This is supposed to take place on Monday.
There have been many meetings most without a quorum and two disrupted but without any vote. Haftar has said he will not join with GNA forces until all the militias are disbanded. That is not likely to happen any time soon as the GNA depends upon them for security. Haftar announced about three weeks ago he would liberate Sirte but has not had any clashes with them meanwhile, the Misrata militia from the west and the Petroleum Facilities Guard in the east closed in on Sirte.
A spokesperson for the forces attacking Sirte from the east, Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) Mohammed Al-Ghasri confirms that Misrata-led forces forces from the west and Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) from the east have now seized the Harawa district to the east of Sirte.
Al-Ghasri boasted: “The battle for Sirte has been won by our forces, the die is cast, IS militants have completely collapsed and we will free the city in a matter of two days.”
The forces entered into Sirte on Wednesday capturing several military camps including Al-Jalit and Tagreft. They also took control of the Buhadi districts and the Zafaran roundabout where IS hung opponents.
It is only 5 kilometers, about three miles, to the city center. The Misrata militias from the west have now joined up with the PFG forces from the east.
A tweet also announced the takeover of the town ofHarawa:"LibyaschannelEN @LibyaschannelEN #BunyanMarsus Ops Room announces liberation of #Harawa almost exactly one year after the village was seized by #IS."
The Solid Structure forces are loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
There has been air support for some operations. Inside the city of Sirte the Solid Structure forces are advancing to take the Ougadougou Conference Hall one of the headquarters of the Islamic State. A recent tweet says: Air force bombs #ISIS targets near Ouagadougou Conference Hall as ground forces r preparing to launch a military offensive 2retake the hall.
There have been severe casualties to the Solid Structure forces. A tweet reports: "15 killed + 95 wounded Yesterday vs #daesh #misrata_hospital." There is a dire shortage of medical supplies. In one city not too far from Misrata, Bani Walid, a tweet says the hospital is virtually deserted: " Ali al-Nagrat: Bani Walid hospital is almost deserted because it lacks equipment and medicine". Another tweet has the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) pleading with the international community for help:"#GNA PC says int'l community has moral responsibility to provide urgent medical aid to forces fighting #IS in #Sirte."
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in a recent news release noted the progress against Daesh or the Islamic State and commended those who were fighting against terrorism in all parts of Libya "including in Benghazi and Derna".
Kobler asked for a ceasefire in Benghazi which Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan Natioal Army (LNA) ignored him.
The terrorists in Derna that Haftar is fighting with his Operation Volcano are the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists who deny they have any connection to Al Qaeda and were instrumental in driving the Islamic State out of Derna and surrounding area. Haftar has been bombing Derna for days. I enclose a photo of some of the damage. He characterizes the Council members as part of Al Qaeda.
Events have moved quickly since Kobler's news release and the Islamic State will soon hold no territory in Libya. No doubt there are many sleeper cells throughout the country who will wage terror attacks.
The Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) has yet to vote confidence in the GNA.
Although numerous meetings have been called to do so, they were either lacking a quorum, or were disrupted. No vote has been taken.
A tweet announces that a meeting for a vote will be held on Monday: "Mohamed Eljarh@Eljarh HoR session on Monday announced by Agilah Saleh in #Tobruk. Unlikely that pro-GNA HoR members would join him for the session. #Libya."
Saleh is sanctioned by the EU for actions impeding the implementation of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA). An alleged majority of the HoR have agreed to the GNA in principle. It may be that they fear if they come to Tobruk they will again not be allowed to vote.
It is not at all clear why the HoR is unable to provide security for the vote.
This sets a terrible example for the future role of the HoR as the legislature of the GNA.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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