(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Forces from the unity government’s Operation Strong Foundation (Albinyan Almarsous) have taken hold of the Al-Gurdabiyah air base in Sirte on Saturday, after engaging in heavy clashes with ISIS militants which killed four soldiers and wounded 16.
“Our units also involved in clashes with ISIS terrorists in Al-Gurdabiyah area and consequently took control of Algardabiya air base. Following the brave assistance by our air force, our units advanced further toward Al-Gurdabiyah residential neighbourhood,” said a statement on the operations room’s Facebook page.
Operation Strong Foundation spokesman Mohamed al-Gasri said that the capture of the air base, which is 20 kilometres from the center of Sirte, was strategically significant because it cut off ISIS supply routes and “trapped them further” in the city.
The media bureau for the operations room stated that their troops secured Abu Hadi, Alrawagha road and a checkpoint 40 kilometres south of Sirte.
In addition, the air force carried out ten sorties which targeted ISIS fighters in the vicinity of Al-Gurdabiyah air base, the 17 runway and the area of Abu Hadi.
The air force was able to target ISIS militants as they fled the area, and also successfully neutralizing several car bombs that the extremist group attempted to set off.
“As the circle around them gets tighter. ISIS extremists, therefore have nothing but two options – surrender or die,” said a statement on Facebook.
Mukhtar Fakroon, a spokesman for the operations room said that the air force carried out over 400 airstrikes targeting ISIS locations in and around Sirte from April to May.
The Libyan army made significant gains this week against the extremist group and have encircled Sirte from all aces.
From their operations room in the east, Petroleum Forces Guards (PFG) who are loyal to the unity government took over the towns of Ben Jawad and Nawfiliya from ISIS militants.
The capturing of the airbase in Sirte is a significant triumph for the Libyan army, as western powers have feared that the terrorist group could launch attacks into Europe from the airbase in Sirte.