Forces loyal to Libya’s unity government have seized the final neighbourhoods of Islamic State held Sirte, retaking the strategic district 700 and surrounding IS’s headquarters at the Ouagadougou centre.
Brigades are now metres from Ibn Sina hospital and the Ouagadougou hall: a three-hectare complex built by toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi to host African Union meetings but was taken by IS last May. Government forces successfully seized the southern residential district 700, where IS militants had posted snipers on top of buildings, officials said.
“Residential area 700 has been liberated and as of 6 p.m. the Ouagadougou centre and the hospital are surrounded,” Mohamed Gnaidy, intelligence chief for Misrata forces said Saturday. At least three fighters were killed and more than 30 injured during the fierce clashes which involved rockets, mortars and gun battles.
“Our forces carried out air strikes on Ouagadougou,” Mr Gnaidy added.
At least nine air raids pummelled IS positions in the last 24 hours, according to a statement posted on the Facebook of the anti-IS Operation, Bunyan Marsus (or Compact Architecture) on Saturday. Four of the sorties targeted Ouagadougou hall and the area around it.
Around the port area government forces also advanced taking the Taweela roundabout, where IS fled leaving their weapons behind, the statement added. To the west of the city, forces engaged with IS militants in District 2.
Government forces had now launched a heavy artillery offensive on the Ouagadougou hall itself, it said.
“This marks the first complete victory over the globally known terrorist IS organisation on Libyan soil,” they claimed.
Libya’s embattled unity government – the Government of National Accord – launched “Bunyan Marsus” on May 5 to flush the jihadists out of Sirte, the de facto capital of their 250km stretch of coastal territory in Libya.
GNA forces – mostly armed groups from Misrata – have faced fierce resistance from the jihadists who refused to allow civilians to leave, planted land mines and fought back with suicide bombings. On Saturday GNA forces said they were busy combing the newly captured territory for improvised explosive devices and land mines.
GNA head Faiez Serraj has repeatedly called for a “unified” military command, and urged army chief General Khalifa Haftar, anchored in the east, to join forces against the jihadists. General Haftar and the country’s parliament, which has rejected the GNA, refused to align with Serraj’s forces claiming it is just a coalition of militias.
Over 220 soldiers have been killed since the start Bunyan Marsus.