Islamic State affiliate seizes Libyan airport

Libyan branch of the Islamic State seizes a civilian airport in Sirte after a militia dispatched to fight them retreats due to a lack of reinforcements. 

Libya Dawn fighters observe IS militants positions near Sirte. Photo: Reuters
Libya Dawn fighters observe IS militants positions near Sirte. Photo: Reuters

The Libyan branch of the Islamic State (IS) has taken control of a civilian airport in the central city of Sirte, according to a mitilia spokesman and an IS statement.

An IS statement said the militant seized the air base along with a Gadhafi-era mega-project known as the Great Man Made River.

The takeover of the al-Qardabia air base reportedly occurred after a militia dispatched to battle the Islamic militants withdrew.

Mohammed al-Shamia, spokesperson for the 166 Battalion militia – that answers to the Islamists that control Tripoli- said that his force retreated after calls for reinforcements from the Libyan capital went unheeded.

The Libyan IS branch already control of much of Sirte, as well as the eastern city of Darnah. In recent months, IS militants have captured and beheaded several Christian laborers and migrants and attacked oil fields. Their attempts to expand their territory to the east of Sirte were repelled by local fighters.

Libya has been plunged into civil war nearly four years since the ousting of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.  

The country's originally elected parliament and government were forced to flee to the far eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda after Islamist militants ook over Tripoli last year.
The Tripoli-based factions have so far been unwilling to get into armed confrontation with the IS branch, despite it having issued several statements describing them as "infidels" and urging their fighters to defect.

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