Libyan forces retake checkpoint south of Misrata

Forces loyal to Libyan unity government celebrate the recapture Abu Grain, one of the main checkpoints south of the city of Misrata. (Reuters)

Libyan military forces said on Tuesday they recaptured one of the main checkpoints south of the city of Misrata from ISIS, reversing some of the gains the militant group made earlier this month.

Seven members of the armed forces were killed and 19 were wounded, including three who died in a mine explosion as they took control of the checkpoint of Abu Grain, Misrata hospital spokesman Aziz Issa said.

ISIS fighters had overrun the Abu Grain checkpoint, town and several nearby villages after carrying out coordinated suicide bomb attacks on May 5.

Abu Grain is about 140 km west of ISIS’ Libyan stronghold of Sirte, on the main road leading south from the port city of Misrata.

The military has yet to take full control of the area, however.

“There are skirmishes from time to time against the militants,” said Mohamed al-Gasri, a spokesman for an operation room set up by Libya’s UN-backed unity government. “We will keep making progress to clean Abu Grain town of those militants”.

The unity government arrived in Tripoli in late March. Western states hope it will replace two rival administrations that have competed for power in Libya since 2014 and unite the armed brigades that supported them to take on ISIS.

The new government has moved to establish itself in western Libya with the backing of brigades from Misrata, which gained power due to its central role in the uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

The new government’s operations room says it is preparing an offensive to recapture Sirte, which has been controlled by ISIS since last year.

The unity government, however, has so far struggled to win formal backing from factions in eastern Libya, where military forces also say they are preparing for an offensive against Sirte.

ISIS controls a strip of coast about 250 km (155 miles) long around Sirte but it has struggled to hold ground elsewhere in the country.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48