Libya announces liberation of Sirte from ISIS control

A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government waving a Libyan flag flashes victory sign as he stands atop the ruins of a house after forces finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former ISIS stronghold of Sirte, Libya. (Reuters)

Libya’s unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj on Saturday officially announced the end of military operations in Sirte, after the liberation from ISIS group forces of what was the last significant territory they held in the country. However prime minister-designate Sarraj warned that the battle against the militants was not over.

Eight months after the start of the operations against ISIS in the coastal town of Sirte “I officially announce the end of military operations and the liberation of the town”, Sarraj said in a televised speech two weeks after the announcement that the area was in control of forces loyal to the government.

The capture of Sirte, first announced on December 5, boosts the authority of Sarraj’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which was launched in Tripoli in March but whose legitimacy is contested by a rival administration based in eastern Libya.

Also read : Watch: Female ISIS member carries out attack in Sirte

The country descended into chaos following the NATO-backed ousting of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations emerging and well-armed militias vying for control of its vast oil wealth. The infighting and lawlessness allowed extremist groups such as ISIS to seize several coastal regions.

The fall of Sirte – Qaddafi’s home town located 450 kilometers east of Tripoli – is a major setback for ISIS, which has also faced a series of military defeats in Syria and Iraq.

Sarraj made the announcement on Sirte on the first anniversary of the signing of a peace agreement in Morocco. “The battle for Sirte is over but the war against terrorism in Libya is not finished,” he warned, stressing the need to unify the various military forces into “one single army”.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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