CAIRO: Fierce clashes in Libya between pro-government militiamen and Islamic State jihadists in the city of Sirte and an explosion at a depot near the capital, Tripoli, left more than 60 dead in just one day, a spokesman and a Libyan state news agency reported on Wednesday.
In Sirte, the last bastion of the Islamic State (ISIS) group in the North African country, Tuesday’s clashes killed 36 militiamen aligned with the newly-UN brokered government. The militias, mainly from the western town of Misrata, have been leading an offensive since early May to take full control over Sirte.
At first, the militiamen rapidly advanced into the city but the push got bogged down in recent days amid a series of suicide bombings by ISIS. Along with the 36 militiamen killed, mostly in direct gun battles with ISIS jihadists, Misrata hospital spokesman Abdel-Aziz Essa also said that about 140 were wounded in Tuesday’s battles.
ISIS jihadists reportedly have hunkered down at the militant group’s headquarters in Sirte, the sprawling Ouagadougou convention center that was built by late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Sirte was also Gaddafi’s birthplace and the city he fled to during the 2011 civil war, when Libyan rebels backed by Nato bombings forced him out of the capital, Tripoli.