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In pics: Rockets fly, gunfire rings out as US-backed Libyan forces push IS back

world Updated: Aug 16, 2016 20:57 IST

Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fire a rocket at Islamic State fighters in Sirte.(REUTERS)

Libyan forces backed by US air strikes said on Tuesday that they have taken control of one of the last districts in central Sirte occupied by Islamic State (IS) fighters.

Forces aligned with Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli are three months into a campaign to oust the IS from their former North African stronghold and have captured most of the coastal city.

Libyan forces fire a shell at IS positions in Sirte, August 15, 2016. (REUTERS)

Since August 1 their progress has been aided by US air strikes that have targeted IS vehicles, weapons and fighting positions. US Africa Command said it had carried out a total of 48 strikes as of Wednesday.

A photo taken on August 15, 2016 shows Libyan forces fire an artillery cannon at IS positions in Sirte. (REUTERS)

The Libyan forces are mainly composed of brigades from the western city of Misrata. After they secured key sites south of central Sirte last week, fighting moved into neighbourhood Number 2, which the brigades said they had now captured.

A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government fires a shell with Soviet made T-55 tank at Islamic State fighters in Sirte. (REUTERS)

“On Tuesday morning clashes erupted ... that led successfully to the recapture of neighbourhood Number 2 with the cooperation of a tank unit to confront the IS,” said Rida Issa, a spokesperson.

“The neighbourhood is now completely under control of our forces.”

A fighter of Libyan forces while carrying a wounded colleague during a battle with IS fighters in Sirte on July 31. (REUTERS)

Some casualties from the fighting were arriving at Misrata’s central hospital, but it was not yet clear how many had been killed and wounded said, Akram Gliwan a hospital spokesperson.

Fighters of Libyan forces rest during a battle with the Islamic State in Sirte (REUTERS)

Islamic State took control of Sirte last year, turning it into a base for Libyan and foreign fighters and extending their control over about 250 km (155 miles) of Libya’s Mediterranean coastline. But it has struggled to win broad support or retain territory in Libya, and losing Sirte will be a major setback for the jihadist group, already under pressure from US-backed campaigns in Iraq and Syria.

A fighter of Libyan forces wears a mask as he waits with his colleagues for a rocket to be fired at Islamic State positions. (REUTERS)

US-backed forces celebrate re-taking Sirte, Libya from the Islamic State on August 11, 2016. (AP)

A white pigeon flies as fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government rest in Sirte. (REUTERS)

Members of Libyan pro-government forces hold a position as they fight to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its main Libyan stronghold of Sirte on August 13, 2016. (AFP)