Libyan pro-government forces walk next to their vehicle mounted with a machine gun on May 18, 2016 in Abu Grein, south of Libya's third city Misrata, a day after Libya's unity government recaptured the area from the Islamic State (IS) group. four of the Bodies of The organization of the Islamic State (Daash) in a truck in Abu Qurayn About 300 km east of the Libyan capital Tripoli , on May 18, 2016. The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces said on Facebook that they recaptured Abu Grein strategic crossroads, where the coastal highway meets the main road south into the desert interior on May 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA

Seven Libyan unity government fighters were killed and 49 wounded Friday in clashes with the ISIL group in the jihadists’ coastal stronghold of Sirte, pro-government forces said.

Fighting was fiercest around Sirte’s conference centre, which has become a command headquarters for IS at the heart of the city, a statement from forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) said.

“The field hospital announced that seven martyrs perished and 49 were wounded in ongoing clashes between our forces and (ISIL),” it added.

Pro-GNA forces launched an operation in May to recapture Sirte, 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli, after the jihadists overran the city in June last year.

Its fall would be a major blow to IS, which has faced a series of setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

The two-month battle for Sirte has killed around 250 pro-government fighters and wounded more than 1,400, according to medical sources at the unity forces’ command centre.

The pro-GNA forces are mostly made up of militias from western Libya established during the 2011 revolt that overthrew dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

A militia set up to guard the country’s main oil facilities has also been advancing on ISIL.

The GNA was the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing agreement struck in December, but it has yet to be endorsed by Libya’s elected parliament based in the country’s far east.

 

AFP

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