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TRIPOLI, -- Libyan security forces captured a second town from in as many days from the Daesh militant group, a spokesman said, pushing the militant group back toward its stronghold of Sirte and away from positions near major oil terminals.
The Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) took control of Nawfiliyah, about 130 km (80 miles) from Sirte, though fighting outside the town raged on and some PFG members had been wounded, spokesman Ali al-Hassi said. The PFG captured the nearby town of Ben Jawad on Monday after clashes that killed five of its combatants.
PFG forces say they are fighting on behalf of a U.N.-backed unity government that arrived in Tripoli in March to try to end factional chaos prevailing since Muammar Gaddafi's fall in 2011, with militants taking root in the security vacuum.
PFG forces have advanced since separate brigades aligned with the unity government pushed Daesh back to the outskirts of Sirte from the west.
Western states are counting on the unity government to bring together Libya's armed factions and tackle Daesh, which has exploited anarchy in the oil-producing North African state to establish its strongest base outside Syria and Iraq.
But the new government faces a tough task integrating Libya's complex web of armed groups, and has failed to win support from key political and military factions in the east.
On Tuesday it announced an operations room to run the campaign against Daesh on the coastal stretch between the eastern town of Ajdabiya and Sirte, which includes the PFG-controlled oil terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. It did not say which forces would be under its command.
Daesh extended its presence along some 250 km (155 miles) of Mediterranean coast on either side of Sirte, and in January attacked Es Sider and Ras Lanuf.
The PFG, an armed force of 27,000 members set up to protect Libya's oil infrastructure, claims it is partisan and loyal to the recently UN-brokered government.
Elsewhere in Libya, militiamen from the western city of Misrata - who are also loyal to the government - said they were pushing toward Sirte.
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two parliaments and governments, each backed by a loose set of militias and tribes. The eastern government and parliament were formed after parliamentary elections, but the Tripoli parliament refused to hand over power to them.
Following a UN-brokered deal between factions from each camp at the end of last year, the new unity government has tried to consolidate its grip in the capital, Tripoli, but has faced resistance from various political players and armed groups.
Libya descended into chaos after the toppling and death of Muammar Gaddafi five years ago and soon turned into a battleground of rival groups battling for control.
The power vacuum has allowed Daesh to expand its presence. The group is estimated to have around 5,000 fighters across the country.
Source: Name News Network