Libya chaos: Islamic State battles militias in Sirte

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A Libyan woman walks past the rubble of a building in the Mediterranean city of Sirte on 13 October 2012Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Sirte was heavily bombed during the campaign to oust Col Gaddafi

At least 25 people have been killed in clashes between Islamic State (IS) and a rival Islamist group backed by armed civilians in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Women and a child were killed in the crossfire as clashes broke out earlier this week, the BBC has learned.

Most of Sirte, the hometown of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, fell to IS earlier this year.

IS is one of a number of groups battling for control of Libya and has made advances across the country.

Fighting broke out in a residential area of Sirte on Monday between Islamic State and a Salafist Muslim group backed by angry armed civilians.

It followed the death of a Muslim cleric who - along with others in the neighbourhood - had refused to comply with IS's order for residents to pledge allegiance or face death, a local journalist told the Associated Press.

The BBC has been told that most of the 25 people who had been killed were armed civilians who had joined the fighting.

One report said IS had taken back the neighbourhood, although this has not been confirmed.

IS faced a similar battle in the eastern port city of Derna in June - the first city outside Iraq and Syria to fall to the group - and was pushed back by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Image source, Screengrab
Image caption,
Islamic State militants took Derna - their first city in Libya - last October

Since Col Gaddafi's death in Sirte in October 2011, Libya has descended into chaos, with various militias fighting for power. The internationally-recognised government has been forced to leave Tripoli.

In January, an IS-affiliated group bombed the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing 10 people.

In February and April, videos were released showing IS militants in Libya killing two groups of mainly Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians.

Air strikes against IS positions have been conducted by the Egyptian air force and by Libya's internationally-recognised government.

Libya's rival power bases