By Seif al-Din al-Trabulsi
TRIPOLI, Libya (AA) – At least 14 Libyan unity government troops were killed and 20 others were injured in clashes with Daesh militants in Libya’s northern city of Sirte Thursday, a Libyan military source said.
According to the source, who requested anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media, “14 troops loyal to the [Tripoli-based] unity government were killed as they advanced into Sirte.”
The source also said that former Minister for Martyrs’ Affairs Abdul-Rahman al-Kaysa was among those killed in the clashes.
Six bodies of government troops were brought to the Misurata Hospital, a source at the hospital said.
“Some 20 injured soldiers were also transferred to the hospital,” the source said.
Libya has been locked in a state of turmoil since 2011, when a bloody uprising ended with the ouster and death of longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, each of which boasts its own military capacity and legislative assembly.
Late last year, Libya’s rival governments signed a UN-backed agreement to establish a unity government in an effort to resolve the country’s six-year political standoff.
Since 2015, Sirte has been held by Daesh, which took advantage of the conflict between Libya’s rival political camps to seize 250 kilometers (roughly 155 miles) of coastline near the Mediterranean city, which lies between Libya’s eastern and western power bases.
In April, forces loyal to the UN-backed unity government launched an offensive to recapture Sirte from Daesh.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that 49 people have been executed by Daesh in Sirte since February 2015.
*Anadolu Agency Correspondent Mohamed Sabry from Cairo contributed to this story.