By Libya Herald reporters.
Tunis and Tripoli, 29 May 2016:
Misratan forces have reached the Gulf power station on the outskirts of Sirte . . .[restrict]. They steadily pushing back IS terrorists against whom they launched their assault at the start of the month.
The success of the thrust has come despite a series of IS suicide attacks in armoured lorries packed with explosives, the most serious of which killed 32 men last week.
There are persistent but unconfirmed reports that foreign special forces are operating alongside Misratan militiamen.
Footage released by Misrata today clearly shows militiamen drawn up beside the most western of the Gulf power station’s plants. There is less obviously verifiable aerial footage of what is said to be the attack on and the destruction of an IS truck bomb near a compound which appears to be to the west of Sirte.
USMIL chief Martin Kobler on a flying visit to Misrata today as that he believe IS had between two and three thousand fighters in Sirte. Other estimates have put the total at nearer 6,000.
Whatever the terrorists’ real strength, it appears that apart from a few rearguard actions, a handful of suicide truck bombings. Grad missile barrages and the widespread rigging of mines and booby-traps, the terrorists have not chosen to confront the Misratan forces head-on, but have withdrawn into Sirte itself.
Misratan commanders have said that they plan to encircle the town. Reuters reported military spokesman Mohamed Al-Ghasri as saying that besides the power station, Misratan forces had also cut the road leading south to Waddan.
“The next step is to encircle Sirte” said Ghasri, “and then we will ask the residents to try to leave. We don’t want to enter now because of the residents. But if it becomes a battlefield we can enter within hours.”
In February 2015, Misratan forces spearheaded by Brigade 166 were confident they could push IS out of the town and took journalists to the outskirts to show their preparations. Yet four months later, IS attacked and the Misratans lost control of the power station and began the retreat back to the key road junction at Abu Grain, which they managed to hold.
If Misratans are indeed able to surround Sirte and leave it only a maritime link to its outside supporters, it will put Khalifa Hafter’s army advance from the east in a different light. The army is still concentrating to the south of Ajdabiya and has made no serious advance towards Sirte, the taking of which has been named “Gardabiya 2”
The original Gardabiya battle in 1915 against the Italians was the only major occasion which Libyans from Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripolitania united in the face of a common enemy. [/restrict]