Libya: ISIS tightens grip on Sirte

ISIS forces are in control of most of Moammar Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, and this week sucessfully repulsed an effort to retake the town by the Misrata-based 166 Brigade, which is aligned with the Libya Dawn rebel coalition that holds power in Tripoli. The 166 Brigade was reportedly pushed to the west after launching an attack on Nufaliya, and ISIS-held town on the outskirts of Sirte. ISIS claims to have taken 166 Brigade camps south and east of Sirte, and posted photos of what it says is seized equipment.

ISIS militants arrived in the Sirte in pickup trucks in February when the Misrata forces were occupied some 150 kilometers to the east trying to take oil port of Es Sider from forces loyal to the "official" government, now based in the eastern city of Tobruk. ISIS now controls Sirte's radio station, hospital, university, and the grand Ouagadougou hall where Qaddafi once hosted African leaders. Misrata militias, having failed to take Es Sider, are now retuning to Sirte—but finding ISIS forces well entrenched. In Libya, ISIS is said to deploy locally-recruited fighters, led by envoys sent from Syria and Iraq. These include Libyans returned from fighting as volunteers for ISIS. (Reuters, May 21; Libya Herald, May 20)