June 11, 2016 - 15:56 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Forces allied with Libya's unity government said Saturday, June 11 they had recaptured the port in the jihadist stronghold of Sirte from Islamic State group fighters who are now surrounded inside the city, AFP reports.
The fall of Sirte, the hometown of ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi, would be a major setback to the extremists who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq where they have declared an Islamic "caliphate".
The Libyan forces also retook a residential area in the east of Sirte, the main IS base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told AFP.
The jihadists are now encircled in an area of around five square kilometres inside the city, he said, according to AFP.
The rapid pace of the anti-IS advance has surprised the Libyan authorities.
"The battle wasn't as difficult as we thought it would be," a Libyan government official said Friday.
Foreign intelligence services estimate the extremist group has 5,000 fighters in Libya, but its strength inside Sirte and the number of civilians living in the city are unclear.
Libya's unity government forces have fought fierce street battles with the jihadists around a sprawling Kadhafi-era conference centre which once hosted international summits but now houses an IS command centre.
An AFP correspondent at the scene reported heavy street fighting on Friday about two kilometres (one mile) from the Ouagadougou centre.