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article imageOp-Ed: Islamic State resistance in Sirte expected to end in a few days

By Ken Hanly     Jul 12, 2016 in Politics
Surt - According Brigadier Mohammed Al-Gosri, the spokesperson for Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure or BAM), artillery shelling on ISIS militants encircled in a small area of Sirte has continued for five days.
Al-Gosri said that the resistance is likely to collapse in the next few days. He said most of the militants are hiding in the Ouagadougou Conference Hall, headquarters for the group. However, he said that there were pockets of resistance in some residential areas. Over the last few days the BAM forces do not seem to have advanced far and they were within attacking distance of the Ouagadougou Hall since the first days of July. However Rida Issa spokesperson for the Misrata forces of BAM said: "Our forces have...targeted militants with artillery and air force around Ouagadougou complex, Ghiza Asskariya district, and in the city center. They have targeted Islamic State members, vehicles, ammunition stores, and control rooms."
The two-month long offensive against the Islamic State has been costly for BAM forces with the death toll now 241 according to sources at the Misrata Hospital. The sources also said that 1400 wounded fighter are currently being treated both within and outside of Libya. Some are in Turkey, Italy and Tunisia. The retaking of Sirte, which the IS captured in June last year would be a major blow to the group as they would no longer control any cities or even significant territory in Libya. No doubt there are cells in various locations, and many fighters may have fled the offensive.
Some suggest that if the IS is defeated that divisions within Libya may increase. An article in MSN explains that most of the BAM forces are militia from Misrata. They get almost no help from the Government of National Accord (GNA) to which they are loyal at present. Many do not have proper helmets or bullet-proof vests that could have saved many lives. Misrata fighter Mohamed Yousef said: "We get nothing from the unity government. This is supposed to be a fight for Libya, but it's been 70 percent led by Misrata. If nothing changes, Seraj's time will come. Maybe he will do well, but if nothing changes?" As the Libyan Gazette puts it the Misrata militia are frustrated by the GNA attempt to somehow accommodate General Khalifa Haftar who refuses to recognize the GNA government or cooperate with its armed forces. The Misrata militia are opposed to Haftar having any role in the GNA government and regard him as a war criminal.
The divisions that many correctly observe were there before the Sirte offensive. The most that the defeat of the Islamic State might do is exacerbate it. There are already a group of militia, the Defend Benghazi Brigades, who have launched attacks on Haftar's forces at Ajdabiya and on the road to Benghazi.
Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, is apparently trying to find new means of moving the Libya Political Agreement forward after failing so far to get the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA. However, it is hard to see how he can accommodate the demands of Haftar and his supporters, who want him to remain commander of the new GNA armed forces, and those such as the Misrata militia who want to ban him from any role in the GNA.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Sirte, AlBunyan AlMarsoos, Islamic State in Libya, Is, Libya
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