World Bulletin / News Desk
After a swift initial thrust into the ISIL group's bastion in Libya, six months on unity government forces still face dogged resistance from extremist holdouts cornered in the Mediterranean city of Sirte.
Within weeks, GNA forces recaptured large chunks of the coastal city that IS extremists had seized in June 2015 as a staging post for an expansion into North Africa.
But they have failed to dislodge the last pockets of IS fighters, holed up in the fiercely-defended district of Al-Giza Al-Bahriya, in a costly battle that has left at least 667 dead and 3,000 wounded in GNA ranks.
"The final assault is being held up... mainly due to the fact that it will result in very intense street fighting and ISIL is determined to defend its positions right down to the last square metre," Rida Issa, spokesman for the pro-GNA forces, said.
Ethan Chorin, a former US diplomat posted in Tripoli and now a consultant, has another explanation for why the assault, which is backed by American air strikes, has got bogged down.
"Those fighting ISIL in Sirte with Western backing are not all motivated, nor are they highly organised," he said, using another acronym for ISIL.
But Issa said loyalist forces were taking a step-by-step approach to the recapture of Sirte to limit casualties, not only in their own ranks but also among civilians "who ISIL are using as human shields" and whose numbers are unknown.
As for IS, the extremists do not disclose their casualties but Issa gave an estimate of between 1,800 and 2,000 dead.
On Wednesday, the US military announced a resumption of anti-IS air strikes in Sirte following a one-week break, as part of an operation launched on August 1 in support of the GNA that has totted up 368 raids.
Last Mod: 11 Kasım 2016, 13:09