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Residents remain wary of Daesh threat in Sirte
November 11, 2017
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SIRTE: Nearly a year after Daesh was driven from its Libyan stronghold Sirte, residents surveying their wrecked homes feel neglected and vulnerable, still afraid of the militant threat that has waned but not vanished.

Though security in the Mediterranean coastal city has improved, residents remain wary of extremists in the desert to the south who have stepped up their activity in recent months, setting up checkpoints and carrying out occasional attacks.

In a country where fighting between rival forces frequently flares, Sirte is particularly exposed. It sits in the centre of Libya’s coastline on the dividing line between loose alliances aligned with rival governments in Tripoli and the east.

“If the situation continues like this then Daesh will come back, no doubt. There was a reason why they came. People were angry, felt sidelined,” said Ali Miftah, a civil servant and father of five.

“Now we don’t get any support from the government. Look at these ruins. We lost everything.” Last month, Daesh gunmen staged a suicide attack in Misrata, the coastal city about 230 km (140 miles) to the northwest that led the campaign last year to expel the militants from Sirte.

Daesh also has sleeper cells in other cities along Libya’s western coast, security officials say, and there is concern foreign fighters seeking sanctuary after defeats in Syria and Iraq could once again exploit the country’s security vacuum and link up with Al Qaeda-linked militants in the desert south.

Divisions among Libya’s many armed factions and uncertainty over how long the forces from Misrata that drove Daesh out will remain in Sirte are compounding residents’ worries.

In parts of the city, life is slowly returning to normal, though Daesh’s black logos are still visible on some shops and inhabitants struggle with cash shortages and failing public services, as they do elsewhere in Libya.

But in areas that saw the heaviest fighting, families see little hope of rebuilding their homes.

Sirte, the home city of former Libyan leader Muammer Qadhafi, was pounded by nearly 500 US air strikes between August and December last year.

In El Manar and Giza Bahriya, once among Sirte’s best neighbourhoods, houses looking onto the crystal blue Mediterranean are now crumpled piles of twisted metal and concrete, doors blasted from their metal frames.

Reuters

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