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Libyan Forces Prepare for Liberation of Sirte | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Smoke rises during a battle between Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government and Islamic State fighters in neighborhood Number Two in Sirte, Libya August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Cairo – Libya’s pro-Government of National Accord (GNA) forces announced on Monday they are fortifying their control over ISIS’ stronghold in Sirte, after heavy fighting that left dozens dead and wounded.

U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Libya Martin Kobler expressed his appreciation for the “heroic Libyan efforts” and the advancement achieved so far against the “barbaric enemy that should be defeated,” meaning ISIS.

Kobler revealed he had a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during which they discussed the current situation in Libya. Kobler said that Ayrault was in grief for the large number of deceased Libyan young men fighting ISIS.

On Monday, pro-GNA forces announced they had “totally liberated” one of the two districts where ISIS fighters were holed up after an evening assault on their positions.

“Our forces have totally liberated district Number One” in northern Sirte, the campaign’s media center said.

Reda Issa, a spokesman for Solid Structure operations told AFP: “The price was costly but they liberated it.”

During the battles on Sunday, GNA forces lost about 34 fighters while 185 were wounded in the “final battle” to retake the whole city.

Medical sources said that around 370 fighters have been killed since the beginning of the battle for Sirte in May.

Since the beginning of August, fighters began receiving air force support from U.S. Air-force which raided several times on ISIS sites in the city.

On Sunday, GNA forces seized Qortoba mosque in district Number three which ISIS had renamed al-Zarqawi after al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed there.

After taking control over the Sirte in 2015, ISIS fighters hoisted their black flag above the city. They set fire to the mosque’s library, killed an imam and used its courtyard for “torture and executions”, the media office of the Sirte operation said on its Facebook page.

They posted also an image of the mosque, weapons they had retrieved, and images of dead bodies of armed men which the media center belonged to ISIS.