(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous forces are working on clearing buildings that were occupied by ISIS fighters up until yesterday in the Ghiza Bahriya neighbourhood, according to a spokesperson for the forces.
Two of the buildings in the neighbourhood were used by ISIS to hold women and children, said the Libyan officials. However, a group of ISIS fighters remain in the district, which ISIS had managed to hold on to for weeks before the Libyan forces successfully took over the city.
On Monday, the forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) said they have taken back full control of Sirte and that most ISIS fighters were either killed or captured.
A number of families who were held hostage were either released or had escaped ISIS in the last few weeks. As more civilians were removed out of the line of fire and into safety, Libyan forces were able to speed up their advance on ISIS.
10 houses in the Ghiza Bahriya neighbourhood have been checked and cleared for any explosives ISIS fighters may have left behind, said Ibrahim Irfaida, a field commander for the GNA loyal forces, adding that another five houses that were destroyed by US airstrikes have not been cleared.
Speaking with a local radio station Irfaida said that “there are still some women and children and Islamic State fighters’ bodies in those houses that we have not yet secured.” Another member of the Libyan brigades who spoke with the condition of anonymity, said ISIS fighters could be hiding in some of the buildings that have been yet to be cleared.
Even though ISIS no longer control’s any part of Sirte’s city centre the Misrata brigades will most likely remain in Sirte to ensure that the city is secure and protected from ISIS fighters who might try to return from the valleys in the southern part of the city.
A Libyan commander estimated that at least 400 ISIS fighters managed to escape Sirte, raising concerns that the terrorist group might try to establish a new base in Libya or elsewhere in North Africa or even Europe.
The US Department of State is “watching very carefully” for any regrouping of ISIS militants outside of Sirte.