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article imageClashes in Sirte continue between ISIS and forces loyal to GNA

By Ken Hanly     Jul 21, 2016 in World
Surt - Today, there were fierce exchanges between the encircled fighters of the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte and Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure, BAM) forces loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).
A Reuters report claims 13 BAM fighters were killed and another 110 wounded. For some time now, the remaining IS forces have been surrounded in a small area of central Sirte. They have put up fierce resistance to the BAM forces, using suicide bombers, booby traps, and snipers, and have inflicted a heavy toll on the attackers, making any advance slow and costly. Most of the BAM fighters are brigades from the city of Misrata. Only several hundred IS militants are thought to be still in Sirte with many others having fled.
After artillery and air attacks at dawn, the BAM forces were said to have advanced on two fronts with heavy fighting reported around the Dollar area and around the port. The front lines had been relatively calm earlier in the week after the BAM forces regrouped after heavy losses last Friday. Many fighters claim they have had little support from the UN-backed GNA or from countries that are its allies. They lack basic military equipments such as helmets and flack vests and also medical supplies.
However, the Middle East Eye reports that UK special forces are helping out BAM fighters: "British forces attacked IS suicide vehicles, directed assaults and provided life-saving equipment, Libyan soldiers loyal to unity government tell MEE." The report claims the troops are not just directing fighting on the frontlines but fighting themselves according to BAM fighters. The UK government refuses to comment on special operations.
Recently, the French government admitted that three of its troops had been killed when a helicopter crashed or was shot down while supporting an operation of Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army (LNA) against the Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB). The DBB is an Islamist group advancing toward Benghazi to support the remnants of the Benghazi Shura Council who are under attack by Haftar as part of his Operation Dignity.
BAM soldiers also said that some helmets and flak jackets were distributed. A young fighter named Abdusalem said: “It was one night when there was heavy fighting and the next day we were planning a major offensive. They had a van full of flak jackets and helmets and we made a long queue and the men gave us each a set. I can’t be absolutely sure if they were British or Americans who gave us the equipment because I don’t speak English and can’t tell the difference between the accents but, anyway, they are working here together," Although he said there still were not enough he said they were used when there were fierce clashes. He said without this help even more BAM fighters would have been killed and he wanted to personally thank the UK.
The IS fighters are also suffering heavy casualties. A recent tweet reports: "Spoxman of AlBunyan Forc G M Ghasri, #Sirte, we counted 54 dead bodies of #Daesh, we took n sites presidential hotel, part of Dollar avenue ". A recent tweet also upped the number of BAM forces killed: "23 killed 140 wounded. From #ALbunyan force in #sirt #thursday #Hospital.of.misrata". Back on July 10, it was predicted that IS resistance would be over within a few days. However, the group still seems to occupy their headquarters even though they came under attack. Perhaps, the BAM forces are deliberately refraining from attacks that could very well see a very high casualty count.
More about Islamic State in Libya, Sirte, AlBunyan AlMarsoos
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