Multiple reports over the past week have indicated that the Islamic State continues to lose ground in Sirte, which is the so-called caliphate’s stronghold in Libya. For example, Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) operations room recently advertised its capture of key locations in the heart of Sirte. Al Bunyan Al Marsoos includes Islamist fighters from the city of Misrata and is backed by US Special Operations forces. [See LWJ report, Opposition to Islamic State claims more ground in Sirte, Libya.]
In an attempt to counter these reports, Amaq News Agency posted the infographic seen above on Aug. 14. Amaq is part of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine.
Amaq claims the jihadists still control four neighborhoods in Sirte, after killing more than 823 fighters belonging to the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and shooting down two fighter jets.
Amaq also alleges that special forces from four Western nations — the US, UK, France and Italy — are involved in the offensive against the Islamic State in the city. Citing official government statements and press reporting, The Long War Journal noted last week that all four of these countries are in fact operating inside Libya. The US is directly backing Al Bunyan Al Marsoos in Sirte and the Italian press says Italy’s special forces are as well. Of course, given that America’s Western allies are not keen to broadcast their involvement, it is not clear what specific roles, if any, they are playing in Sirte.
It is difficult to assess the status of the fighting inside the city. However, even Amaq’s infographic shows that the Islamic State’s forces are likely surrounded. As the fighting has continued, the Islamic State’s Libya arm has dispatched more of its “martyrs.” Earlier today, for instance, Amaq reported: “2 martyrdom operations hit a gathering of National Accord Government [GNA] fighters during clashes in the city of Sirte.”
Amaq’s infographic includes a tally of 29 US airstrikes, but this figure is out of date. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 14, according to US Africa Command, the US has carried out 46 airstrikes in support of “Operation Odyssey Lightning,” which aims to liberate Sirte from Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists.