Libyan forces report 14 civilians freed from ISIL in Sirte
MISRATA, Libya – ReutersLibyan forces in the final stages of a six-month campaign to recapture Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said they freed 14 civilians on Nov. 6 from a small residential area where some militants are holding out.
The forces, composed of fighters mainly from Misrata, say they are exercising caution to limit casualties to civilians who may still be trapped with ISIL fighters.
ISIL took full control of Sirte, a city of some 80,000 inhabitants, in early 2015. Its loss would leave the jihadist group without any territorial control in Libya.
The Libyan forces have the remaining militants in Sirte surrounded in part of the Ghiza Bahriya neighborhood. The civilians who left on Nov. 6 were Libyans and mainly women and children, the media office of the Misrata-led operation said.
They are the latest of several groups of civilians to escape or be released, many of them migrant women and children who were kidnapped by ISIL as they tried to make their way through Libya towards Europe.
There was no advance against ISIL on Nov. 6, Rida Issa, a spokesman for Misrata-led forces, told Reuters. On Nov. 5, Reuters reporters witnessed heavy tank and howitzer fire against militant positions resulting in small gains.
The forces fighting ISIL in Sirte are aligned with a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, though strategic decisions are taken by commanders in the field and in Misrata. Since Aug. 1, they have been assisted by more than 360 U.S. air strikes.