Libyan forces closing in on Islamic State hub in Sirte

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government said on Friday they were coming closer to the headquarters of Islamic State in the extremist militia’s stronghold in the central city of Sirte.

The forces are a few hundred metres from the Ouagadougou conference centre where Islamic State fighters have their central location in Sirte, said Mohammed Ghasri, a spokesman for the military coalition.

“Once you control Ouagadougou, the battle is over,” Ghasri told dpa in Misrata.

The reported advance is part of the ongoing final phase of an offensive that pro-government forces started in May to retake Sirte from Islamic State.

Fourteen government fighters were killed on Friday and 50 others injured while battling Islamic State in Sirte, according to Ghasri.

The fighting was the heaviest in weeks.

No casualties were reported among the extremists.

Sirte, about 450 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, is strategically important because it links Libya's east and west.

The Mediterranean city has been under Islamic State control since last year, becoming the group's biggest bastion outside Syria and Iraq.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

Islamic State has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory along the sparsely populated central coast and expand in the oil-rich country.

Last update: Fri, 15/07/2016 - 16:49

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