The Islamic State has seized swathes of territory in central Libya, local media reported on Tuesday, as the international terror group strengthened its grip on the war-torn country.
Local news website Wasat, quoting sources in Sirte, said IS fighters have recaptured extensive areas from its stronghold the coastal town of Nofliya, 150km east of Sirte, to the outskirts of Harawa some 70km further west.
The jihadi group had been battling forces loyal to the country’s rival administration Libya Dawn around Sirte and in February successfully seized key neighborhoods and buildings. Dawn’s Brigade 166 had managed to push the jihadi group back but it has since regained ground.
Aside from IS’s extension west, it has also taken the eastern town of Derna, as well as parts of Benghazi. IS fighters have quietly extended their empire exploiting the security breakdown as pro-government forces and armed groups have battled for territory.
Since it first emerged in Libya in October last year, IS launched a brutal and effective expansion plan across the country, executing dozens of Christians and sparking fears it could use Libya as a foothold to attack Europe.