Libya government allies take town in advance on ISIS bastion

Sunday 29/05/2016
Symbolic city is still under ISIS control

TRIPOLI - Fighters allied with Libya's UN-backed unity government have captured a coastal town from the Islamic State group in an advance towards its bastion Sirte, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Petroleum Facilities Guard overran Ben Jawad as they thrust westwards along the Mediterranean coast from their base in Libya's eastern oil ports, the spokesman for the force said.

Five people were killed and 18 wounded in Monday's fighting, sector commander Colonel Bashir Buthefira said.

The advance continued on Tuesday and was nearing the ISIS-held town of Nofiliya, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) east of Sirte.

Sirte was the home town of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi and, since seizing it in June last year, ISIS has turned it into a recruitment and training camp.

Western governments fear the jihadists could use Sirte's port and airport as a springboard for attacks in Europe.

But they have called for any offensive against the ISIS stronghold to be carried out under the auspices of the unity government installed in Tripoli since March 30 for fear that rival operations could play into the jihadists' hands.

The unity government has gradually asserted its control over key state institutions, but it still faces a rival administration with its own army in the east.