Daesh’s last stronghold Sirte finally succumbs to Libyan forces
Despite the apparent victory in Sirte, Libya remains deeply divided, with the national unity government based in the capital Tripoli unable to gain recognition from the elected parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk. (AFP/File)
Forces aligned to Libya's UN-backed national unity government Monday gained full control of Sirte, the Islamic State group's last stronghold in the country, a spokesman and sources on the ground said.
The Bunyan Marsous forces seized the coastal city's Jiza al-Bahrieh district, the last area where the jihadists were holding out, and were in the process of securing it, the spokesman for the forces' media centre, Rida Issa, told dpa.
Another media official on the ground in Sirte as well as a Bunyan Marsous fighter, both of whom asked not to be quoted by name, confirmed the capture of the area.
However, the main spokesman for Bunyan Marsous, Mohammed al-Ghasri, said Islamic State fighters were still surrounded in a number of buildings and the area had not been fully liberated.
Al-Ghasri made his remarks in a statement broadcast on a local television channel. dpa was unable to reach him directly for comment.
The developments follow a bitter seven-month campaign against Islamic State, which took advantage of Libya's split between rival governments in the east and west of the country to build up its largest territory outside its heartland in Syria and Iraq.
The pro-government forces, mainly from the western city of Misrata, started their advances against Islamic State in May. The jihadists then controlled a 250-kilometre stretch of the country's central Mediterranean coast.
The Bunyan Marsous forces quickly surrounded Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moamer Gaddafi who was captured and slain nearby during the 2011 uprising that ended his four-decade rule.
But the last six months have seen gruelling street fighting inside the city as the jihadists resisted block by block.
Islamic State fighters are still thought to be present in several parts of southern and eastern Libya but no longer control any towns.
Despite the apparent victory in Sirte, Libya remains deeply divided, with the national unity government based in the capital Tripoli unable to gain recognition from the elected parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk.
Forces loyal to Tobruk military strongman General Khalifa Haftar have made major advances in recent months, seizing the country's critical oil ports from forces aligned to the unity government.
Analysts argue that Haftar's growing strength means the UN-backed deal setting up the national unity government is increasingly out of step with the balance of power on the ground and should be revisited.
Even in Tripoli the unity government's rule is far from secure, with a third rival administration backed by hardline Islamists recently attempting a comeback.
Clashes between rival militias claimed at least four lives in the city on Friday, according to the al-Wasat news site.
By Mohammed Lagha and Pol O Gradaigh