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In Libya Forces report capture of Sirte university from Islamic State

The latest clashes came after the government-backed fighters reached a hotel complex southeast of the recently captured Dollar neighbourhood on Monday.

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Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take cover during a battle with Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo play Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take cover during a battle with Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
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Libyan forces battling to oust Islamic State (IS) from Sirte said they captured its university complex on Wednesday but lost one of their warplanes over the city.

Rida Issa, a spokesman for the forces, said it was not clear how the plane crashed. Islamic State said it had shot down the jet, killing the pilot, according to a statement on a website close to the jihadist group.

Forces aligned with Libya's U.N.-backed government launched their campaign for Sirte in May. On Aug. 1, the United States began air strikes to help them advance against militants encircled in the centre of the Mediterranean coastal city.

U.S. drones and fighter jets have carried out a total of 29 strikes since then, targeting several IS emplacements on Monday and a gun-mounted pick-up truck on Tuesday, according to statements by U.S. Africa Command.

Libyan fighter jets have also been flying regular missions over Sirte, the hometown of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose fall in an 2011 uprising precipitated years of factional anarchy in the oil-exporting North African country.

The U.N.-backed government arrived in Tripoli in March, but has struggled to impose its authority and faces continuing resistance from armed factions that control eastern Libya.

On the ground in Sirte, Libyan forces led by brigades from the city of Misrata have suffered heavy casualties from Islamic State mines and sniper fire. Clashes have been sporadic, with heavier fighting interspersed with lulls that last for several days.

"Our forces are making progress in their attack against Daesh (Islamic State), and have recaptured the University of Sirte," Issa said. They had also advanced to a cluster of unfinished buildings used by Islamic State snipers just west of the centre of Sirte, he said.

The latest clashes came after the government-backed fighters reached a hotel complex southeast of the recently captured Dollar neighbourhood on Monday.

Libyan militants returning from combat in Syria's civil war helped implant Islamic State in Libya in 2014, but IS has struggled to win support or hold territory as most local people regard it as a malign import dependent on foreign fighters.

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