By Osama Ali
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Wednesday that at the request of and in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), it had carried out several airstrikes against Daesh in Libya’s north-central coastal city of Sirte.
The airstrikes came as GNA forces announced the “sudden” withdrawal of Daesh elements from most parts of Sirte’s District 3.
AFRICOM said on its website that it had hit several enemy fighting positions as well as one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. The statement did not provide information about Daesh’s possible death toll.
The statement itself added that today’s raids raised the number of U.S. airstrikes in Sirte, starting on Aug. 1, to 82.
Meanwhile, Mohamed al-Ghasry, spokesman for the government’s Al-Bunyan al-Marsus operation, said that the fighting in the city "is still limited -- mostly -- to artillery and air bombardment".
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Al-Ghasry added, “Daesh elements have suddenly and without clear reason withdrawn from most of the roads and streets of District 3," saying that government forces "have not entered the neighborhood, fearing that it might have been booby-trapped.”
Forces are waiting for orders before storming the neighborhood, said al-Ghasry, adding that Daesh elements have currently withdrawn to an area “in the northern half of District 1 in addition to a very small part of District 3".
Al-Ghasry stressed that Daesh elements in the city "have become few and are counting their last hours before withdrawal".
In early August, the U.S. military announced it was launching airstrikes on Daesh sites in Sirte at the request of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Concord.
Mustafa Noah, head of the GNA’s intelligence service, earlier told Anadolu Agency, “The Daesh terrorist structure will be removed soon from the city of Sirte, but this does not mean completely getting rid of the structure in Libya, or that its operations will end.”
Since May, forces aligned with the UN-backed unity government have been battling Daesh militants in Sirte.
Libyan government forces have reported major gains against the militant group in Sirte, which Daesh overran last year.
Libya has remained in a state of turmoil since 2011, when a bloody uprising ended with the ouster and death of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Late last year, Libya’s rival governments signed a UN-sponsored agreement that established a national unity government. However, it has remained beset by difficulties and has yet to apply its governing mandate across the troubled North African country.