16 June 2016
Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed government said five of its fighters were killed on Thursday in a suicide car bomb outside Sirte, the local stronghold of the Islamic State extremist militia.
The bomb was targeted at the security gate of the town of Abugrein, located west of Sirte, a government media centre reported, without giving details.
Meanwhile pro-government forces foiled two attacks by suicide car bombs targeting their posts inside Sirte, the centre said.
The bombings are believed to have been mounted by Islamic State militants who have unleashed similar attacks in the past few days against government forces trying to drive them from Sirte.
Last month, government forces began an onslaught to retake Sirte, which Islamic State seized last year.
The forces, mainly from the western city of Misrata, last week made major territorial gains around and inside Sirte, the biggest city held by Islamic State outside Iraq and Syria.
The advance inside the Mediterranean Sea city has since been slowed down by militants’ sniper fire and suicide attacks, according to Libya media.
Sirte, around 450 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, is strategically important because it links Libya’s east and west.
Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 revolt which toppled long-time dictator Mohammar Gaddafi.
The Islamic State has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory along the sparsely populated central coast and expand in the oil-rich country.