Libya will appoint a military governor to administer Sirte once victory is declared over Islamic State fighters in the coastal city, according to a spokesman for the coalition battling the extremist group.
“Our forces will nominate a leader,” Colonel Mohamed al-Ghasrie said by phone. “He might rule for a period of six months or less,” he said, adding that officials would work to ensure a return to normal life as soon as possible.
Libyan troops under the Government of National Accord were edging closer on Tuesday to retaking Sirte, Islamic State’s last foothold in the oil-rich North African country and its only base outside Syria and Iraq. “We are still advancing,” al-Ghasrie said. “We won’t stop until all of Sirte is liberated.”
Expelling the extremists from the city would be a symbolic coup for Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and boost his efforts to unite the country, which remains largely divided some nine months after the United Nations-backed administration was formed in Tunis.
At least 300 members of the pro-government coalition have been killed since the fight for Sirte began at the end of May, many of them civilians who took up arms in the absence of a national army. Confronted with heavy losses, Serraj asked for U.S. airstrikes, which began Aug. 1. U.S. Africa Command said that it had carried out 48 strikes as of Monday against Islamic State vehicles, weapons and fighting positions.