Libyan forces free five foreign captives from Daesh in Sirte

The captives freed in the hometown of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi include two Turkish citizens, two Indians and one Bangladeshi.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government gather at the eastern frontline of fighting with Daesh, in Sirte, Libya, October 20, 2016.

Libyan pro-government forces have freed five foreign nationals held by Daesh in Sirte after heavy fighting in their battle to capture the final district of the city, a local official said on Thursday.

Daesh took over Sirte more than a year ago, profiting from chaos caused by infighting among rival brigades of Libyan forces who once battled together to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but steadily turned against each other.

Two of the freed foreigners were from Turkey, two from India and one from Bangladesh, said Rida Issa, a spokesman for the Bonyan Marsous forces which have been battling for six months against Daesh in Sirte.

"There was a desperate resistance by Daesh, but it was confronted by heavy weapons," Issa said.

Forces from the western city of Misrata, allied with the UN-backed government in Tripoli, have been leading the battle to oust Daesh from Sirte, helped since August by US air strikes and small teams of Western special forces.

A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government holds an explosive belt left behind by Daesh near the eastern frontline, in Sirte, Libya, October 20, 2016. (Reuters)

But they have been facing fierce resistance from snipers, car bombs and booby-traps as Daesh members dig in for house-to-house fighting in the last residential districts held by the terrorist group.

On Thursday, pro-government forces killed at least 20 Daesh members as they pushed into the 600 District of Sirte, one of the last held by terrorist organisation who control an area now less than one square kilometer, local officials said.

After facing heavy casualties at the start of the campaign, Misrata forces have increasingly turned to the use of tanks and armed vehicles to clear a path for ground troops.

No details were given about how or where the five foreigners where captured, but Daesh has attacked oilfields and kidnapped foreign workers over the last two years.

In May 2015, Daesh kidnapped a Czech, an Austrian and a Bangladeshi among other foreigners when they overran an oilfield in the south of Sirte.

In February last year, they beheaded a group of Egyptian Christians captured in Libya.

Migrants crossing the Sahara desert into Libya ride on the back of a pickup truck outside Agadez, Niger, May 9, 2016. (Reuters/archive)

Losing Sirte would deprive Daesh of its major base outside its Iraq and Syria territory just as a US-backed alliance helps Iraqi forces recapture the city of Mosul

Mosul is the second largest city of Iraq and the largest city under the control of Daesh in Iraq.

But the UN-backed government in Tripoli is struggling to expand its influence and faces opposition from hardliners on all sides of Libya's political divide.

A victory in Sirte for Misrata forces is already pressuring military rivals in the east who oppose the Tripoli government. 


TRTWorld and agencies