A member of the Special Deterrence Force stands near a car at a checkpoint in Tripoli, Libya March 7, 2016. Picture taken March 7. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
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Packed into a battered car, a family of nine joined the steady flow of residents fleeing Daesh's (ISIS) Libyan stronghold of Sirte.Sirte is a city upended. Once given favored treatment by former leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was born there, it now serves as a Mediterranean base for the most important Daesh branch outside Syria and Iraq. That has left Western intelligence agencies struggling to figure out how far Daesh can extend its influence across Libya – and how to stop the group.Some Libyan and Western officials see Sirte as a foothold for further Daesh expansion. The city had been neglected by Libya's main factions since Gadhafi was dragged from a drainpipe and shot there in 2011 .Sirte Mayor Mukhtar Khalifa al-Maadani, who left the city in August last year as Daesh escalated its crackdowns, said the group cleverly exploited the city's existing rifts. Kara, the Deterrence Force leader in Tripoli, complained that armed groups that back the government in Tripoli try to protect Daesh suspects.
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