(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
On Tuesday, Libyan forces fighting ISIS in Sirte took over several of the terrorist group’s barricaded houses edging nearer to fully liberating Sirte.
Before advancing on Sirte Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous forces gave warning calls to civilians through a megaphone ensuring them that safe passage has been guaranteed for women and children.
“All women and children leave now if you want to live, don’t miss this chance,” said a brigade member in a video showing him calling out to civilians before the Libyan forces moved in.
“Let them go now, there is safe passage, the battle is over,” the soldier calls out to ISIS fighters.
“The Islamic State gangs are trying desperately to resist up until their last breath,” said Rida Issa, a spokesperson for the Libyan brigades fighting in Sirte.
The battle against ISIS in Sirte has dragged on for months due to unexpected tactics used by the terrorist group. Government of National Accord (GNA) loyal forces have had to take extra precautions while advancing on ISIS to avoid civilian casualties. ISIS fighters frequently use suicide bombs, mines, snipers and booby traps in retaliation against Libyan soldiers.
Since Monday, 30 ISIS fighters were killed, and three soldiers Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous forces died.
Groups of civilians, some of which were refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, were able to flee ISIS or were released by the militants. The actual number of civilians and ISIS fighters that remain in the area are surrounded by GNA loyal forces.
For the GNA, victory against ISIS in Sirte will provide the fledgling government with the credibility it needs to lead the war-torn country to peace, security and stability.
However, there have also been great losses on the Libyan side. Close to 660 soldiers have been killed and about 3,000 wounded since the offensive against ISIS was launched in May.
A Libyan commander estimated that at least 400 ISIS fighters managed to escape Sirte, raising concerns that the terrorist group might try to establish a new base in Libya or elsewhere in North Africa or even Europe.