- Title: Libyan forces clear IS hideouts in Sirte
- Date: 5th October 2016
- Summary: SIRTE, LIBYA (OCTOBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS AND VEHICLES LIBYAN FLAG ON TOP OF BUILDING VARIOUS OF RUBBLE AND CONCRETE TWO ARMED LIBYAN FIGHTERS HIDING BEHIND A WALL ARMED LIBYAN FIGHTER HIDING BEHIND WALL VARIOUS OF RUBBLE VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LIBYAN FIGHTER, IBRAHIM AL-TALEB, SAYING: "At the moment, we're at the end of neighbourhood number three and thank God, we targeted a number of snipers -- this morning we shot seven Islamic State snipers." (AUDIO QUALITY AS INCOMING) VARIOUS OF LIBYAN FIGHTER AIMING RIFLE FROM BEHIND A WALL VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS AND RUBBLE VARIOUS OF BULLET CASINGS ON THE GROUND VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS AND RUBBLE VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS AND CARS DESTROYED CARS TRUCK PARKED IN FRONT OF DESTROYED BUILDING VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDINGS AND RUBBLE DESTROYED TRUCK AND RUBBLE VARIOUS OF RUBBLE VARIOUS OF DESTROYED BUILDING FROM INSIDE VARIOUS OF DESTROYED TRUCKS AND BUILDINGS
- Embargoed: 20th October 2016 18:06
- Keywords: Sirte Islamic State government buildings
- Location: SIRTE, LIBYA
- City: SIRTE, LIBYA
- Country: Libya
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Military Conflicts
- Reuters ID: LVA00152QCXTZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: PLEASE NOTE: AUDIO AS INCOMING ON SOUNDBITE
Islamic State controls a residential strip less than 1 Km long in their former stronghold in Libya's Sirte, where pro-government forces backed by U.S. air strikes are advancing building by building to finish a five-month-old campaign.
Over the past two days, forces led by brigades from Misrata have pressed further into Sirte's neighbourhood Number Three as an intensified aerial bombardment and a barrage of tank fire slowly dislodged militant sniper positions.
Militants were clinging to an area called Manara, a sub- district that if ceded, Misrata commanders said, would leave them exposed to defeat in what was once the group's main base outside territory controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Losing control of Sirte is a major blow for Islamic State, depriving it of the only city it held in North Africa. The jihadist group is also on the defensive against U.S.-backed campaigns in Iraq and Syria.
Victory for the Misrata-led forces would also provide a boost for a U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) that nominally commands them from Tripoli.
The GNA has so far struggled to exert its authority and recently saw a rival eastern commander, Kahlifa Haftar, seize some of Libya's major oil ports, one of which is less than 200 km from Sirte.
The campaign in Sirte has been costly and longer than many in Misrata expected. But with Islamic State militants pinned back to a few residential blocks, their capacity to use heavy weapons and suicide bombings has been reduced.
On Sunday the U.S. intensified its air attacks on Sirte, carrying out 20 strikes against multiple fighting positions, according to U.S. Africa Command. The U.S. has launched just over 200 strikes since the start of its air campaign on Aug. 1.
"At the moment, we're at the end of neighbourhood number three and thank God, we targeted a number of snipers -- this morning we shot seven Islamic State snipers," said Ibrahim al-Taleb, a Libyan fighter on Wednesday (October 5).
Many of the buildings in areas where recent fighting has taken place are partly ruined or reduced to rubble.
Misrata-led forces are still vulnerable to snipers, who they say are highly skilled and have adapted to air strikes by seeking better cover. On Sunday, a sniper claimed the life of a Dutch photographer - the second journalist to be killed in the campaign.
Forces have also had to deal with attacks from behind the front lines, including car bombings, which have fuelled fears of a continuing insurgent threat in the area after Sirte's capture.
On Sunday, the forces fended off a major ambush on their eastern flank. Rida Issa, a second spokesman for the Misrata-led operation, said as many as 55 bodies of slain Islamic State fighters had been counted after the attack, with another 25 counted around Manara.
A further six had been killed as fleeing militants were pursued into the desert, Issa said. At least 11 of the government-backed fighters were killed in the past two days of fighting, with dozens more wounded.
That brought the total number killed since the start of the campaign to 560, said Akram Gliwan, a spokesman at Misrata's central hospital.
No running tally of Islamic State casualties has been kept, and militants' bodies are often left in the streets untouched because of fears of booby traps. By most estimates, the jihadist group had built up a force of between 2,000 and 5,000 in Sirte, many of them foreigners, before the battle started.
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