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Libyan forces foil ambush, lose eight men in Sirte battle

Their advance has been slowed by ISIS snipers, improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings in close-quarter street battles

Published: Updated:

Libyan forces repelled an attempted ambush but lost at least eight of their men as their battle with militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) encircled their former stronghold of Sirte on Sunday, officials said.

A Dutch photojournalist, Jeroen Oerlemans, was also killed in the fighting.

A spokesman for the Libyan forces, Rida Issa, said militants who staged an ambush east of central Sirte had apparently arrived from the desert, in the latest sign of an enduring extremist threat beyond the battle lines.

Forces dominated by fighters from Misrata and aligned with Libya’s UN-backed government have been battling to capture Sirte for more than four months.

Supported since Aug. 1 by US air strikes, they have taken control of most of the city and have been besieging militants trapped in a thin residential strip near Sirte’s seafront for several weeks.

Their advance has been slowed by ISIS snipers, improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings in close-quarter street battles. Occasional ground attacks are interspersed by rest periods that allow fighters to regroup and hospitals to clear casualties.

Issa said fighting had erupted “when Daesh (ISIS) ambushed our forces at the Sawawa front line. Our forces foiled the ambush.” Misrata-led forces believed the militants had come from the desert and were trying to reach Sirte’s port, captured from ISIS several weeks ago.