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Via the WSJ, the Islamic State’s foothold in Northern Africa appears to be crumbling:
Forces aligned with Libya’s internationally backed unity government closed in on the center of the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte during the weekend, giving a boost to an administration struggling to unite the fractured nation. In the past three weeks, militias that recently threw their support behind the government captured about 80% of Sirte and on Sunday pushed deeper into the city, said Ismail Shukri, head of military intelligence for the militias. “We have not been able to keep many prisoners to help us with information about the organization in Libya,” he said. “Most of them blow themselves up before they can be taken alive.” The offensive has been surprisingly quick and successful, military and intelligence officials said. Some 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline that Islamic State had controlled around Sirte has been reduced to about 50 miles in less than a month, the officials said.
Toward the end of the article, however:
The effort to retake Sirte is being commanded by Col. Mehdi al-Barghathi, the defense minister of the unity government, who brought together two powerful armed groups under the government’s banner.
Those two groups, known as the Misrata Brigades, began their assault on Islamic State from west of Sirte while another militia, known as the Petroleum Facility Guard, attacked from the east.
Libyans and their foreign partners saw nominating Col. Barghathi as a way to try to win support for the unity government from another pivotal figure who had resisted the effort, Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
Col. Barghathi is a former deputy of Gen. Haftar, who commanded the military forces of one of the two former rival governments, based in eastern Libya. Gen. Haftar has vowed to oppose the unity government because it includes Islamist figures.
Regional powers and many Libyans view Gen. Haftar as the most effective fighter of Islamist extremists in Libya. European and U.N. officials said after the unity government was set up that his support would be critical.
Some context — albeit a few weeks old — from the Economist:
It is a shame […] that these groups are failing to work together. The main divide, as ever, is between the east, where General Haftar backs yet another government, and the west, where Mr Serraj is struggling to establish his authority. Each side sees the fight against IS as an opportunity to bolster its standing—at the other’s expense. They are both scrambling for Sirte and may soon take aim at each other, as well as the jihadists. The UN warns of civil war again.
America and Europe want Libya’s armed groups to unite under Mr Serraj, who was installed as prime minister after politicians from both sides of the country signed an agreement in December. But that deal has still not been approved by the parliament in the east, where some oppose handing control of the army to the new administration without guaranteeing the future of General Haftar.
Needing to reassert some authority, Mr Serraj announced his new-command centre the following day. He has filled it with army officers from Misrata, home to dozens of linked militia groups that form the main rivals to General Haftar’s forces. Their focus is meant to be on the west of the country, to avoid an inter-regional conflict. But Misratan forces have already skirmished with General Haftar’s troops near Zillah, south of Sirte.