Fighting is still raging in Sirte as Operation Sunrise and Brigade 166 continue to battle it out against ISIS. The fight is still largely confined to the suburbs of the town with IS militants still firmly entrenched inside it. Indeed, although Operation Sunrise forces have put the town under siege, they are struggling to dislodge the militant group from inside it.
Local residents are becoming increasingly frustrated at the ongoing violence. On 27 March inhabitants of Sirte staged a demonstration in the town that was attended by tribal elders and members of the local wisemen and shura councils to call for an end to the fighting. Protesters also complained that since ISIS took over some six weeks ago there have been no functioning government offices or buildings.
ISIS fighters may not number that many but they are certainly well entrenched. So much so that Operation Sunrise pulled its forces out of the Oil Crescent this week seemingly in order to concentrate its power in the fight in Sirte.
Hafter’s battle for Benghazi continues to drag on with little change in the status quo. Fighting erupted in the Buatni neighbourhood this week, as well as in other areas where Islamist militants are dug in. Despite reports earlier in the week that Al-Laithi had been cleared of militant elements, the neighbourhood is still beyond Hafter’s control. Indeed although a source in the LNA told the local media that following heavy shelling militants from the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council had pulled out from Al-Laithi, Special Forces spokesman, Mailoud Zwai, acknowledged that this was not true and that the battle was ongoing.
Hafter’s forces also suffered further losses in the neighbourhood on 24 March when militants exploded a booby trapped car at a checkpoint in Al-Laithi. The attack, that was reportedly carried out by a Tunisian, killed six LNA soldiers and two civilians.