TRIPOLI – ISIS has been pushed out of its last remaining stronghold in Libya, after seven months of fighting in the central city of Sirte.

Misrata-led forces allied to the GNA unity government cleared the stronghold of any remaining fighters with help from US airstrikes.

“The battle is finally over,” said Reda Essia, a spokesman for the Misratan militias who led the assault on Sirte.

He added: “Our fighters are ecstatic. We still have to comb through the city and make sure we got them all, but we are so, so happy.”

Footage had emerged on Sunday of several ISIS leaders trying to swim from beachside properties in Sirte to escape. It also appeared the group had employed a number of female suicide bombers in a last ditch stand in the days before.

As fighters planned the final assault, dozens of women and children escaped from the final few buildings ISIS controlled.

When the Islamic extremists took over Sirte and nearby Derna in 2015, they controlled up to 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline. This led to fears jihadists could launch attacks on mainland Europe.

ISIS had said they would establish a new caliphate in the region.

Libya has been wrecked by instability since the ousting of long time leader Muammar Gaddafi, also from Sirte, in 2011.

A succession of governments has failed to gain any real control over the oil rich nation. The current Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, has done little to solve the ongoing political problems.

His efforts have been exacerbated by increased fighting in the last couple of weeks between militias in the capital, Tripoli.

Jamie Prentis, Correspondent (Middle East)

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