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ISIS Suicide Bombers Hit Libyan Troops in Sirte, Kill at Least 12

Libyans put out a fire following a car bomb attack in al-Gharbiat in Sirte, Libya

Libyans put out a fire following a car bomb attack in al-Gharbiat in Sirte, Libya August 18, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zitouny

Sirte, Libya: Suicide bombings against Libyan forces battling to oust ISIS from their former North African stronghold of Sirte killed at least 12 fighters and wounded about 60 there on Thursday, a hospital spokesman said.

Forces, mainly composed of fighters aligned with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, have been closing in on the centre of Sirte, where militants now control a shrinking residential area.

Since August 1, US has been conducting air strikes to support them. As of Wednesday it had carried out 62 strikes, most recently against fighting positions and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, the US Africa Command said.

Last week the forces, who are directed from Misrata about 230 kilometres from Sirte, made big gains, securing a number of large buildings and complexes in the town that had been used by ISIS snipers.

They claimed control over one of the final neighbourhoods where ISIS was present earlier this week, but as they have tried to advance further forward they have faced multiple suicide bomb attacks.

The casualties in Sirte on Thursday came from two separate suicide vehicle bombings, Misrata hospital spokesman Akram Gliwan said.

ISIS imposed its rule over Sirte last year, extending its presence along 250 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline and creating its most important base outside Syria and Iraq.

Misrata-led forces began their campaign to capture Sirte three months ago, counter attacking after ISIS advanced to within 100 kilometres of Misrata.