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Libya air force pounds Daesh positions in Sirte

Government-backed forces in Libya have carried out airstrikes on Daesh positions in Sirte in support of the ground operations aimed at liberating the coastal city from the terror group.

“Our air force today launched an intense series of air strikes that targeted various (Daesh) positions in Sirte,” said Reda Issa, a spokesman for Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNA).

“Military engineering teams are working to clear mines and bombs planted by (Daesh) to open the way for our ground forces to continue their advance on different parts of the city,” he said.

Since May 12, Libyan forces have been engaged in a military operation to retake Sirte, which fell to the Takfiri terrorists in February 2015.

They managed to enter Sirte on June 9. However, Daesh militants hit back with car bombs and sniper fire, slowing the early advances of Libyan troops.

On June 22, Libyan armed forces advanced more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) into areas previously controlled by Daesh, liberating a number of residential districts. It has been the bloodiest day in the operation so far for pro-government forces, who lost 36 members.

Libyan forces hold a position as they target Daesh in Sirte on June 23, 2016. ©AFP

Medical sources say nearly 200 members of the pro-GNA forces have lost their lives and over 600 injured since the start of the Sirte liberation operation.

The full recapture of the city, which is the largest Daesh bastion outside Iraq and Syria, would be a major boost to the GNA, which has come to office through support from the United Nations.

Daesh has been taking advantage of the chaos embroiling Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow and death of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The oil-rich North African country has had two rival governments since 2014, when politician Khalifa Ghweil and his self-proclaimed government seized control of the capital, Tripoli, with the support of militia groups, forcing the internationally-recognized government to move to the country’s remote eastern city of Tobruk.

The two governments achieved a consensus on forming a unity government, the GNA, last December after months of UN-brokered talks in Tunisia and Morocco to restore order to the country.

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