By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 29 May 2015:
Forces supporting the . . .[restrict]Islamic State (IS) have taken control of Gardabiya airbase in Sirte, Libya’s largest airbase, after Misrata’s 166 Brigade retreated last night from its remaining positions in the town last night. IS which already controls the centre of Sirte including its port, is reported to have taken control also of the Manmade River complex some 25 kilometres east of the town. It too had been in the hands of 166 Brigade.
The Misratan forces are reported to have pulled back to the power station 20 kilometres west of the town. Reports that they had withdrawn from it as well have been denied.
It is not known if any fighter planes have also fallen into IS hands. Libya Dawn forces, of which 166 is still officially a part, were reported three months ago to been using it to bomb Libyan National Army positions in Sidra and Ras Lanuf.
An official in Misrata says that an angry city council and its military leadership are blaming the rump Generl National Congress (GNC) for the setback, claiming that it is has not supported them. “We did not get any support from the GNC. We don’t have enough weapons, enough vehicles. The other side has everything,” the official said.
The commander of 166, Mohamed Ahusan, similarly told Misrata’s local radio station this morning that the withdrawal had been forced on it because the authorities in Tripoli had failed to provide the necessary support in terms of men and weapons.
Auhsan added that the brigade has earlier threatened to withdraw if it did not receive support. There had been meetings between a number of Misratan brigade commanders and the municipal council on the matter, he said. However, there were separate reports yesterday that although a different Misratan brigade had decided to pull out of Sirte because of the lack of backing from the GNC, 166 and a handful of others had agreed at a meeting with the council to stay on and fight IS.
Sources in Sirte itself this morning tell of IS gunmen in full control of the centre of the town and the eastern and southern entrances. They claimed that all the shops were closed with nobody going out in the streets. Large numbers of Sirte families are also said to have fled.
Meanwhile the international community, notably the EU and the US, continues to insist that it will not help anyone in Libya fight IS until there is a government of national unity – a scenario that looks as remote now as when the UNSMIL dialogue process restarted four months ago in Geneva.