Libya militia scramble to halt ISIS advance

Western powers including the United States, Britain and France have openly considered international military intervention in Libya against ISIS. (File photo: AP)

Commanders in Libya's third city Misrata rushed militiamen to a key crossroads on Friday after it was overrun by ISIS in an assault in which a suicide bomber killed two police.

The Abu Grein crossroads lies 120 kilometres south of Misrata where the highway along Libya's Mediterranean coast meets the main road south into the desert interior.

It was captured by ISIS on Thursday in an advance from their stronghold in the city of Sirte 140 kilometres to the east.

The head of the Misrata military council, Colonel Ibrahim Bel-Rajab, said he had ordered all brigades under his command to head to Abu Grein without delay, Libya's LANA news agency reported.

"Numerous armed vehicles of IS have been spotted in this area," he said.

Libya's Sirte has becomes 'fully closed' amid ISIS advance

Misrata's two main television channels broadcast appeals to militiamen on leave to return to their barracks.

In a statement, ISIS said a Tunisian fighter had blown up a vehicle at the crossroads allowing other fighters to advance and take control of it and five other villages in the area, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

ISIS captured Sirte in June last year and has since transformed it into a training camp for Libyan and foreign militants.

With its port and airport, there are fears the militants could use the city as a staging post for attacks on European soil.

Western powers including the United States, Britain and France have openly considered international military intervention in Libya against ISIS.

Experts have said that any future foreign strikes could target Sirte as well as the region around it.

The militants group is estimated to have around 5,000 fighters in Libya, and is trying to attract hundreds more.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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