Libyan forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said on Monday they had taken control of the strategic coastal city of Sirte in a rapid advance preceded by air strikes.
Holding Sirte would be an important gain for Haftar, who since April has been waging a military offensive on the capital, Tripoli, home to Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Sirte lies in the centre of Libya’s Mediterranean coast, and has been controlled by GNA-aligned forces since they ejected Islamic State from the city with the help of U.S. air strikes in late 2016.
This is how news sites reported the development.
Khalifa Haftar’s forces, backed by former Gaddafi brigades, said they had seized control of most areas in Sirte after brief clashes with Sirte Protection and Security Force units, which pulled out after being abandoned by Brigade 604 – a Madkhali force that was formed after the city was freed from ISIS in 2016.
The report adds that for weeks, Haftar’s forces have been launching sporadic attacks on Sirte with several air attacks by UAE drones, which caused several deaths from the Sirte Protection and Security Force.
Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte is still with the Gaddafi regime of Libya and that made it give the city to ISIS without any resistance as most militants were previous Gaddafi brigades’ personnel.
The sources added that most of the city is now under the control of Haftar’s forces and former Gaddafi brigades, except for some neighborhoods in which few brigades are trying to repel the rest of the attack.
According to Libya Observer, Sirte Protection and Security Force sources said their force was betrayed by Brigade 604, whose personnel are mostly from Sirte and tasked with securing their city from the inside.
With an air cover, Haftar’s forces advanced Monday on Sirte from eastern and southern frontlines before 604 Brigade gave them the green light to advance from inside the city, thus forcing Sirte Protection and Security Force brigades to retreat allowing Haftar’s forces to enter the city without fighting.
Via Libya Observer / Libya Express / Reuters Haaretz