Libyan forces clear last Daesh holdout in Sirte

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government celebrate after they finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former Islamic State stronghold of Sirte, Libya on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2016
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Libyan forces clear last Daesh holdout in Sirte

SIRTE, Libya: Libyan forces backed by US air strikes have finished clearing the final district of the former Daesh stronghold of Sirte in which the militant group had been holding out, a spokesman for the forces said on Tuesday.
A Reuters witness said fighting had ended in Sirte’s Ghiza Bahriya area, where Daesh had been dug in for weeks at the end of a battle for the city that began in May.
Spokesman Rida Issa said forces led by brigades from Misrata had “secured all the buildings and the streets” in Ghiza Bahriya, though this did not mean the end of the Misrata-led operation. “We still need to secure the area around Sirte,” he said.
Libyan and Western officials say some Daesh fighters escaped from Sirte before the battle or in its early stages. They fear an insurgent campaign from outside the city and there have been attacks in outlying areas.
Daesh took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into their most important base outside the Middle East and moving large numbers of foreign fighters into the city.
The militant group imposed its ultra-hard-line rule on Sirte’s residents, extending its control along about 250 km (155 miles) of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline.
The Misrata-led forces counter-attacked in May after militants moved along the coast toward the city.
The brigades, nominally aligned with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, advanced rapidly toward the center of Sirte before suicide bombers, snipers and mines largely halted their progress.
Since Aug. 1, the United States has carried out at least 495 air strikes against Daesh in Sirte.
In recent days dozens of women and children, some of them migrants from sub-Saharan Africa held captive by Daesh, had escaped or had been released from militant-held ground.
A further group of women and children emerged on Tuesday as forces secured the final few buildings in Ghiza Bahriya, Issa said. Six Daesh fighters were killed or captured, he said.
On the political front, the city’s capture boosts the authority of the UN-backed GNA, which was set up in Tripoli in March but whose legitimacy is contested by a rival administration in eastern Libya.
The country descended into chaos following the NATO-backed ousting of Kadhafi, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth.
The infighting and lawlessness allowed extremist groups to seize several coastal regions, giving the jihadists a toehold on Europe’s doorstep.
The fall of Sirte comes as Daesh also faces a series of military defeats in Syria and Iraq.


White House: All Daesh-held territory in Syria has been '100 percent eliminated'

Updated 26 min 39 sec ago
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White House: All Daesh-held territory in Syria has been '100 percent eliminated'

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: The White House said on Friday that all Daesh held territory in Syria has been"100 percent" eliminated.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One Friday that President Donald Trump was briefed about the development by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Trump has been teasing the victory for days.
Sanders showed reporters a map of Iraq and Syria that showed that the terror group no longer controlled any territory in the region.

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