File - Libya Dawn fighters fire an artillery cannon at IS militants near Sirte March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
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ISIS fighters became a major force last year in Derna, a jihadi bastion in Libya's east, and quickly spread to the biggest eastern city Benghazi, where they have conducted suicide bombings on streets divided among armed factions.It took Sirte from the government based in Tripoli, which draws its support mainly from fighters from the western city of Misrata, who emerged as some of the most powerful in the country after Gadhafi's fall.ISIS gunmen arrived in the area in pickup trucks in February when the Misrata forces were busy 150 kilometers to the east trying to wrestle away Libya's biggest oil port, Es Sidra, from forces backing the other government, now based in the east.When the Misratis returned in force to Sirte in March after failing to seize Es Sidra, ISIS had already set up checkpoints.The Misrata forces have surrounded Sirte and are diverting traffic on the coastal road to the desert hinterland.The group has managed to stage suicide bombings on Misrata forces near the power plant and at highway checkpoints, including one on the outskirts of Misrata which frightened residents.
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