Friday, 28/2/2020 | 2:57 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire


SIRTE, -- Crouching on a rooftop, Libyan truck driver Riyad Swaid takes aim through breeze blocks at positions held by Islamic State fighters a few hundred metres away in the city of Sirte.

He and his fellow gunmen, aligned with Libya's unity government, are battling street-to-street for the strategically important coastal city on the edge the Western war against Islamic State.

Nearly two months into the battle, the militant group has lost control of Sirte's harbour and some of the residential areas near the centre of what was late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown.

The sides exchange sniper rounds and mortar shells, at times only 200 metres apart, and fight house-by-house.

"This war was forced on us. It was a war we could not avoid, so many lost their lives to these people," Swaid said.

Islamic State started expanding into Libya in 2014 as political chaos deepened and conflict worsened, three years after the civil war that ousted Gaddafi.

Sirte, 450 km (280 miles) east of Tripoli, became Islamic State's largest outpost beyond its Iraq and Syria territory. It was taken last year by militants who profited from Libya's war among rival factions to gain control of territory and impose their hardline vision on the city.

Losing Sirte would be a major setback for the group and a big blow to morale as it also struggles to hold ground in Iraq, where it has lost the city of Falluja and other territory to forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes.

Source: Libyan News Agency