More than 30 fighters loyal to Libya’s unity government have been killed near the “Islamic State” stronghold of Sirte. The country’s leaders have called for warplanes to bomb the militant group.
Officials said seven fighters were killed when IS militants staged a car bomb attack in Buairat el-Hassun, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) west of Sirte. The others died in fierce fighting with jihadists in another town, Abu Grain, which IS overran on May 5.
“The toll of today’s martyrs reached 32, and 50 others were wounded,” the operations room set up by Libya’s new Government of National Unity (GNA) said on social media.
Meanwhile GNA forces said they have continued to push back IS fighters towards Sirte, a coastal city that IS took control of last year. The town is now its most important base outside Syria and Iraq.
In a televised statement from the streets of Abu Grain, military spokesman Mohamed al-Gasri said the forces had “liberated” the small town and two nearby villages after heavy fighting.
Clashes on Tuesday claimed the lives of seven members of the GNA forces and wounded 15.
Meanwhile, a report published on Wednesday by campaign group Human Rights Watch found that IS had unlawfully executed at least 49 people accused of offences in Sirte, including spying, sorcery, and blasphemy over one year from February 2015.
Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 revolt, which toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. IS has taken advantage of the chaos to establish grip in the oil-rich country.