Libyan Forces Battle Isis Street-To-Street In Sirte
Libyan forces along with other fighters from the country are battling street-to-street for the strategically important coastal city in the war against Islamic State (ISIS).
Nearly two months into the battle, the militant group has lost control of Sirte's harbour and some of the residential areas near the center of what were late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown.
The sides exchanged sniper rounds and mortar shells, at times only 200 meters apart.
Most feel let down by their Western partners and by the Tripoli government in the fight against ISIS.
One soldier said he was disappointed with the lack of support from the West but was hopeful that Libyan troops would be successful in their battle against ISIS militants.
ISIS being squeezed by a tightening ring of separate fronts around a 5-km central area where earthen berms crisscross roads, cutting off escapes routes. Tanks and howitzers lob occasional shells into areas held by ISIS.
Wearing mixed camouflage uniforms and jeans, some in flip-flops and others in flak jackets, the fighters are trying to clear out snipers and landmines and booby-traps strapped to corpses in the street and in houses.
Many of them are forces from the nearby port city of Misrata, who have gun-mounted vehicles behind earthen roadblocks and fire aging anti-tank canons from villa rooftops. Others have come from as far as Tripoli.
"We are God fearing people, law abiding people. We reject wrong doing. This is our country and we will never abandon it. These Daesh are people who don't know God, they are crazy, they kill and slaughter, they have displaced families," said one Libyan fighter.
Crouching on rooftops, Libyan fighters aim through breeze blocks at positions held by ISIS fighters a few hundred meters away in the city of Sirte.
A week ago, more than 40 Misrata troops were killed in a surge on one front. At a field hospital outside Sirte, doctors say most of the recent victims among troops were killed by gunshot wounds to the head and upper body.
Misratan fighters battled side by side with other rebel brigades against Gaddafi in their 2011 uprising. They are now just one force in the complex network of military and political rivalries among Libya's various factions vying for power.
Western powers say they are ready for Prime Minister Fayaz Seraj's government to request assistance. But the U.N.-backed unity government is struggling to exert its influence, and political infighting delays decisions.
A specific request for exemptions to a U.N. arms embargo is yet to emerge, and a broader proposal for Western training programs is still in the planning stages.