We journeyed 250 km along what is coming to be known as the longest supply route in Libyan military history. En route, the revolutionary fighters accompanying me were keen to point out the locations of early suicide attacks on them. At Sadada, which is situated approximately 80 km from Misrata, I was shown the site of one such suicide bomb attacks which killed 45 Misratan-led fighters, and rough estimates are given at 150 deaths amongst the revolutionaries by suicide attacks alone since hostilities began six months prior. It became apparent as I journeyed along the Libyan coastline towards Sirte just how large of an operation had taken place.
Hundreds of square kilometers, which were previously occupied by ISIS, were now flying the Libyan flag over buildings and road signs. Long military convoys beeped their horns as they zoomed by us towards their destination.
The closer I got to Sirte the more destruction I witnessed, even on the outskirts, there were not many buildings that escaped some form of scars from the war. We were transporting the daily meal for the fighters so when we arrived at the charity organization in charge of supplying food to the frontline, there was an immediate rush to prepare for the stream of fighters who began to queue up with pots in hand. I began to get an idea of where the fighters came from and their age group. It was clear to see that there is a complete contrast from one group of fighters to another as is always the case with revolutionary brigades.
Some fighters, white bearded were shown due respect by others because of that age difference whilst others could have easily been 17 – 18 which was interesting to me because these young men would have been only 12-13 at the time the revolution began and would not have taken part in the actual downfall of the Gaddafi regime, yet here they were carrying the torch and taking the fight to the new enemy of Libya.
We prepared to enter the warzone, which was witness to intensive airstrikes by the American and Libyan air forces, and continuous shelling by the Misrata-led forces was an effort to eliminate the few remaining ISIS fighters with minimum casualties as the estimated figures show at least 500 revolutionary fighters had lost their lives in total and another 2000 wounded since hostilities began.
We made our way through the man made holes in the walls to the ever shrinking frontline, which is now estimated at about 400 square meters. The men manning the front lines were quick to explain how most gunfights are sparked at night by ISIS fighters and taunting was a regular occurrence with ISIS fighters seeking a response in order to pin point the location of their enemy.
With ISIS rounded up and surrounded from all sides by the brave efforts and sacrifices of the revolutionary fighters, it is clear to see that they are taking their last breaths in Sirte, making the question become ever louder,
“What is to come after Sirte”?
Only time can tell what the new orders will be but with Haftar taking control of the oil crescent region last month and a regrouping of forces such as the Benghazi Defence Brigades, Ziad Belam`s forces and the PFG (Petroleum Facility Guard) to remove him, the end of ISIS will surely have an effect on the balance of power and politics on the ground in Libya`s near future.