US Africa Command announced today that the US has carried out 62 “precision” airstrikes since Aug. 1 in support of “Operation Odyssey Lightning,” which seeks to dislodge the Islamic State from its stronghold in Sirte, Libya. On Aug. 17, the US bombed 13 “enemy fighting positions” and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).
Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) operations room, which draws fighters from militias based in Misrata and is allied with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), is the main ground force seeking to clear the city. Special Forces from the US, and possibly other Western nations, are on the ground in Sirte as well.
Yesterday, Al Bunyan Al Marsoos released a map of the situation in Sirte, highlighting areas where clashes are taking place in the interior of the city on the Mediterranean coast. The map, which can be seen above, is generally consistent with an infographic the Islamic State released earlier this week. However, the Islamic State claimed to be in control of four neighborhoods that, in reality, appear to be contested.
Despite losing ground, the Islamic State continues to launch suicide bombings and other attacks inside the city. The Islamic State’s fighters have carried out a string of VBIED attacks since the offensive against Sirte began in May. The American precision airstrikes have taken out some of these VBIEDs, but not all of them.
Earlier today, two suicide bombers detonated VBIEDs in the western part of Sirte. The Associated Press cited a spokesman for Al Bunyan Al Marsoos as saying that the suicide terrorists came from outside the city into the interior to support their fellow jihadists, who are surrounded. The initial reports indicate that there are significant casualties, with 10 or more killed and many others wounded.
Even as the Islamic State detonates VBIEDs inside Sirte, Al Bunyan Al Marsoos is emphasizing a return to normalcy in parts of the city. Al Bunyan al Marsoos released the photos seen below on its official Twitter feed today. Below that set of pictures are images tweeted on Aug. 16 depicting fighters from Al Bunyan Al Marsoos advancing in Residential area no. 2, which is also highlighted on the map reproduced above.
Propaganda photos depicting life returning to normal inside Sirte:
Photos posted by Al Bunyan Al Marsoos from Residential area no. 2: