Libyan forces announce 'liberation’ of Sirte from Daesh

Published December 18th, 2016 - 11:00 GMT
Forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) gather around a tank, as they attack the last positions of Daesh on September 3, 2016.  (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
Forces loyal to Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) gather around a tank, as they attack the last positions of Daesh on September 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Turkia)

Libya's UN-backed government said it has regained full control of the city of Sirte from Daesh [also known as the Islamic State] after a campaign of nearly eight months against the extremist militia.

"We officially declare the end of military operations and the liberation of Sirte," Prime Minister Fayez Serraj said in a televised address late Saturday.

"Libyans' will is unconquerable," he added.

Pro-government forces started a major offensive to dislodge Daesh from Sirte in May.

In August, the United States started airstrikes against the militants in the Mediterranean coastal city.

In recent months, the government forces' advance has been slowed down by Daesh's trademark tactics including suicide attacks.

The United Nations' envoy for Libya, Martin Kobler, called Daesh's defeat in Sirte a "major step" for the war-ravaged country.

"This victory is a major step forward in liberating Libya from terrorism, ending the days of the Islamic State controlling territory in the country," Kobler added in a statement Sunday.

"I call on Libyans to seize this opportunity to promote national reconciliation."

Sirte, about 450 kilometres east of Tripoli, is strategically important because it links Libya's east and west.

Daesh fighters are still thought to be present in several parts of southern and eastern Libya but no longer control any towns.

Libya remains deeply divided, with the UN-backed government based in the capital Tripoli unable to gain recognition from the elected parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The oil-rich country descended into chaos following the overthrow of longtime autocrat Moamer Gaddafi in a 2013 revolt.


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