This week witnessed the slowing momentum of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) anti–ISIS operation in Sirte, as fierce ISIS counterattacks stalled the operation’s advance. This development is chiefly attributed to two factors: 1) ISIS is beginning to push back on the Bunyan Marsus advance inside Sirte, successfully and repeatedly hitting GNA forces behind their own front lines, and 2) the ‘defection’ of the hardline Islamist factions (e.g. Benghazi Defense Brigade) and other associated militias.
Although the GNA’s Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus coalition continued the previous week’s speedy advance into Sirte, taking control of the radio station, fodder factory and seizing a large arms depot on 13 June, the coalition lost control of Sirte’s port on 14 June, after a large ISIS counterattack managed to push the coalition back to the east. Currently, the port serves as a frontline, with Misratan forces situated on the eastern perimeter, and ISIS on the west. Small Libyan navy boats currently block the port, while airstrikes are ongoing against ISIS positions in the area.
On 14 June, ISIS launched an assault on the port, forcing Bunyan Marsus units positioned there to withdraw one kilometre to the east. ISIS militants also advanced to the west for the first time under cover of heavy artillery and rocket fire, successfully retaking Zafaraan roundabout.
On 15 June, ISIS renewed its assault on the port, as Bunyan Marsus forces bombarded the main ISIS headquarters in Sirte in Ouagadougou center with heavy artillery and airstrikes.
Most significantly on 16 June, ISIS was able to conduct four SVBIED attacks, one at Abu Grein 70 kilometres west of Sirte, and others at the power station and the fodder factory west of the city. The fierce ISIS response to the Bunyan Marsus advance, and the defection of several militias from the coalition has greatly slowed the momentum of the last three weeks.