Middle East

Libyan unity government forces retake checkpoint from IS

Libyan military forces said on Tuesday they recaptured one of the main checkpoints south of the city of Misrata from Islamic State, reversing some of the gains the militant group made earlier this month.

Seven members of the armed forces were killed and 19 were wounded, including three who died in a mine explosion as they took control of the checkpoint of Abu Grain, Misrata hospital spokesman Aziz Issa said.

Islamic State fighters had overrun the Abu Grain checkpoint, town and several nearby villages after carrying out coordinated suicide bomb attacks on May 5.

Abu Grain is about 140 km west of Islamic State's Libyan stronghold of Sirte, on the main road leading south from the port city of Misrata.

The military has yet to take full control of the area, however.

"There are skirmishes from time to time against the militants," said Mohamed al-Gasri, a spokesman for an operation room set up by Libya's UN-backed unity government. "We will keep making progress to clean Abu Grain town of those militants".

The unity government arrived in Tripoli in late March. Western states hope it will replace two rival administrations that have competed for power in Libya since 2014 and unite the armed brigades that supported them to take on Islamic State.

The new government has moved to establish itself in western Libya with the backing of brigades from Misrata, which gained power due to its central role in the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The new government's operations room says it is preparing an offensive to recapture Sirte, which has been controlled by Islamic State since last year.

The unity government, however, has so far struggled to win formal backing from factions in eastern Libya, where military forces also say they are preparing for an offensive against Sirte.

Islamic State controls a strip of coast about 250 km long around Sirte but it has struggled to hold ground elsewhere in the country.

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