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Libya: Pro-GNA Forces Declare Victory Against ISIS in Sirte

ISIS IN ACTION On 5 December, after days of heavy fighting and US airstrikes, the GNA-affiliated al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) fighters officially declared victory against ISIS in Sirte, declaring a final and total breakdown in ISIS ranks with many of their militants surrendering themselves to BM. Rida Issa, a BM spokesman, said the BM forces were backed by intensive US airstrikes to take the last ISIS-held buildings in the Jiza al-Bahriya neighbourhood. ISIS fighters who remained in a few dozen buildings in the district had surrendered earlier that day.

Late on 5 December, Ibrahim Irfaida, a BM field commander, said there were up to 10 houses in Jiza al-Bahriya that had yet to be secured and five more that had been destroyed by air strikes but had been not yet checked. “There are still some women and children and Islamic State fighters’ bodies in those houses that we have not yet secured,” he told Misrata FM radio. Another official said some militants were still hiding in the buildings. Irfaida said that even once Jiza al-Bahriya was fully under control, Libyan forces would need to try to secure villages and valleys south of Sirte where militants have been active. On 6 December, BM forces said they were securing the last few buildings and that a small number of militants were still in the area.

Earlier in the week, BM fighters managed to arrest a key ISIS figure, Abu Hamam, who was a preacher in one of the ISIS controlled mosques and had personally overseen a number of executions. After his capture, he was reportedly brutally executed and beheaded by the BM forces. Reuters has reported of multiple women suicide bombers who detonate themselves on BM forces killing at least 4 and wounding many more. As BM forces continue to sweep the final areas of Jiza, many children and women are being released from captivity – some of them booby trapped with bombs.

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WESTERN RESPONSE UN Envoy Martin Kobler has insisted that he will not give up on getting the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and the GNA approved by the HoR, while also denying that he is considering resignation. On November 29, Kobler flew to Tobruk to meet with HoR Vice President Emhemed Shuaib, in an attempt to reactivate an HoR vote on the LPA. However, news of Kobler’s arrival spread quickly. Anti-GNA demonstrations were triggered, forcing Kobler to stay at the airport to met Shuaib.

In an open conversation with the Libya Herald on 3 December, Kobler said that the LPA is not set in stone, indicating that re-negotiation of certain points in the 2015 Skhirat agreement is possible, including notably those preventing Marshal Khalifa Haftar remaining in control of the LNA. In that interview, Kobler also lamented the militia clashes in Tripoli, saying they exposed the failure of the security arrangements section in the LPA. Kobler highlighted that a meeting will be held in New York at the UN Security Council on 6 December to take stock of the LPA process as a whole, which may lead to an extension of the UNSMIL mandate.

Libya-Analysis is the most read independent English-language blog on Libyan affairs. It is run by Jason Pack, founder of EyeOnISISinLibya.com and researcher of World History at Cambridge University