Unity fighters push forward

MISRATA, Libya – Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government pushed Islamic State (IS) fighters back towards their stronghold of Sirte on Wednesday but lost more than 30 men, including seven killed in a car bombing, officials said.

In a televised statement from the streets of Abu Grain, military spokesman Mohamed al-Gasri said the forces had “liberated” the small town and two nearby villages after heavy fighting.

Western powers are counting on the new government to unify Libya’s political and armed factions to take on Islamic State. The government arrived in Tripoli in late March and is still trying to establish its authority.

IS gained control over Sirte last year and has built up its most important base outside Syria and Iraq in the Libyan coastal city. However, it has struggled to hold on to territory elsewhere in Libya.

IS militants overran the town of Abu Grain and several villages after staging suicide attacks against checkpoints in the area on May 5.

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