(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Hamid Malouqa Al-Zliteni, a top ISIS commander known as the “Emir of ISIS,” was reportedly killed on Thursday, among other high ranking ISIS commanders, after heavy clashes with Operation Strong Foundation (Albinyan Almarsous) forces.
In addition, five ISIS fighters who were captured by Government of National Accord (GNA) forces on Thursday said that three high level ISIS commanders had managed to escape the city amid the clashes.
Operation Strong Foundation forces (Alinyan Almarsous) mounted an attack on Sirte from three directions on Thursday, with the offensive being conducted by land, air and sea.
In addition, Libyan forces took control of Zafarana Square, where ISIS militants have been accused of executing at least 49 people, and Ouagadougou conference hall, which is a major landmark in the city, and was used as the administrative centre of ISIS.
The Libyan navy said on Thursday evening that they had taken full control of the entire coast of Sirte, making it nearly impossible for ISIS fighters to flee by sea.
The capturing of Sirte is a huge setback for the extremist group, as they are also losing ground in Syria and Iraq.
Two weeks ago, top ISIS commander Luqman Abu Sakhr, also known as Khaled al-Shayab, was reportedly killed by Libyan soldiers in a battle in Al-Baghla, 60 kilometres from Sirte.
ISIS militants have taken control of Sirte, the hometown of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, since June and have taken advantage of the ongoing conflict between Libya’s political and armed groups. Sirte is located on the coast between the Tripoli-based unity government in the west and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HOR) located in the east.
The liberation of Sirte from the threat of ISIS was a priority for Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s new unity government as Western powers expressed their growing fear that the extremist militant group could use the coastal city to orchestrate attacks against Europe.
ISIS forces may have lost control of Sirte, however, they may still be planning terrorist attacks in Libya, as some ISIS fighters have retreated to the desert to possibly regroup.
Mohamed al-Ghasri, a spokesman for the Libyan military said ISIS “Snipers are a concern to us because they shoot from long distances and that has hindered us in the battle inside the city.”