At least 17 killed in Islamic State clash with Libyan rivals

Salafist Muslims attacks IS fighters in Sirte earlier in week over alleged killing of preacher

Islamic State fighters pictured in Libya earlier this year. File photograph: Al-Furqan Media/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic State fighters pictured in Libya earlier this year. File photograph: Al-Furqan Media/AFP/Getty Images

 

At least 17 people were killed in heavy clashes between Islamic State fighters and a rival Islamist group in the Islamic State-held city of Sirte in central Libya on Thursday, residents said.

Earlier this week, a Salafist Muslim group and armed residents attacked Islamic State fighters in Sirte, located about 500km east of the capital, Tripoli, accusing them of killing a prominent preacher in Sirte.

Around 15 local fighters and two Islamic State commanders were killed, residents said.

The battle was concentrated in one district where locals had surrounded Islamic State fighters holed up in buildings, they said.

Reuters has unable to verify the information from the city, which was seized by Islamic State earlier this year.

Locals angered

A similar battle occurred in the eastern city of Derna in June when Islamic State was expelled by rival Islamist fighters who teamed up with locals angered by the arrival of foreign militants and clerics.

Islamic State launched an offensive to retake Derna this week.

Libya has two governments fighting each other for power while Islamic State and other armed groups are exploiting a security vacuum to carve out their own fiefdoms.

Both governments are also battling militants in different parts of Libya.

The United Nations brought the main warring factions together in Geneva this week but the diplomacy has been overtaken by fighting between groups not present at the negotiating table.

Reuters