Libyan forces battling the so-called Islamic State in the port city of Sirte on Friday made significant progress in their quest to recapture the city.
The city has served as a stronghold for the Islamist militant group since last year, having taken advantage of the instability in the northern African nation to establish a base.
But forces loyal to the UN-backed Libyan government as well as fighters from the neighbouring Misrata have for the past three months waged a campaign to recapture the hometown of the country’s former ruler, Muammar Gadaffi.
We made good progress forward and we hope to liberate the whole of Dollar neighbourhood and advance further to neighbourhoods number 1, 2 and 3
With nearly all of Sirte’s residents having fled the city, the emptied building offered cover for fighters on both sides as they exchanged gunfire.
Friday’s fighting in the Dollar neighbourhood according to medical officials claimed the lives of at least 5 Libyan fighters leaving some 28 others wounded.
“Despite the obstacles and difficulties we have faced in the Dollar neighbourhood such as land mines, booby traps and snipers, the snipers took all the roofs of the high buildings, despite that we made good progress forward and we hope to liberate the whole of Dollar neighbourhood and advance further to neighbourhoods number 1, 2 and 3 which means the end of the war, God willing,” Mohammed, a pro-government fighter said.
The Libyan forces have claimed significant portions of Sirte but their progress has been slow as they tend to hold back for days after heavy fighting due to their lack of capacity to treat their wounded.
The Islamic State holds several strategic sites in the center of Sirte including the university, the main hospital and the Ouagadougou conference hall, where fighters believe the Islamic State has stocked large quantities of ammunition and provisions.
Losing the city of Sirte which has served as the IS base since last year would be a major blow to the group which has already lost its strongholds in Palmyra, Syria and Fallujah in Iraq.