Libya: GNA Forces Welcome ‘Decisive’ US Airstrikes in Sirte
Misrata brigade forces aligned with the Government of National Accord taking on the Islamic State (IS) group fighters in coastal city of Sirte welcomed the US airstrikes launched Monday and Tuesday against the militant group, saying the airstrikes reshaped pattern of fighting, reports say.
Fighting against IS last week concentrated around Dollar neighborhood where brigade forces engaged in street battle with the militants.
Forces commander, Mohamed Darat, told Reuters that the first strikes, which took place on Monday, had helped Libyan brigades under his command secure the Dollar residential neighborhood by targeting militants who had been holding out on the district’s edge.
“In the last two houses in this area we faced strong resistance so we asked (the U.S.) to hit that site,” said Darat.
“We moved back and they struck,” he added.
The GNA loyal forces have launched since May the anti-IS campaign in Muammar Gaddafi’s home town but progress against the terrorist group still controlling part of the city slowed down due to militants’ use of snipers, landmines, and explosives.
The Pentagon made surprising outings by shelling positions of the extremist group on Monday and Tuesday. Armed drones stationed in Jordan and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers from the USS Wasp; located in the Mediterranean carried out the airstrikes. The first strikes, five in all, targeted two tanks, construction and military vehicles and a rocket launcher, the Pentagon noted.
Darat said the airstrikes cleared further the way for his forces but a number of militants are still resisting.
“We’ll do what we did in Dollar and move forward house by house.
“We’re resting now and if there are air strikes it will make our lives easier, but we will advance with or without them,” he said.
IS took control of the coastal city last year after massacring militiamen protecting the city. The group turned the city into its North African nerve center where it trains militants and wherefrom it launches attacks in neighboring countries. Takeover of the city by GNA forces will deal huge blow to the militant group already in disarray in Iraq and Syria.
The UN-backed GNA ruling from Tripoli has vowed to flash out terrorist group posing threat to the security of the country and of the whole region.
The GNA fighters hoped the American military help came sooner and hoped for further similar actions.
Since the beginning of the campaign, around 500 fighters have been killed and more than 1,000 injured. The number of casualties in IS camp has been difficult to verify.