Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally backed government say they are close to retaking Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group after capturing a key neighbourhood in the heart of the coastal city.

The fighters, mainly from the nearby city of Misrata, said they were advancing on ISIL-held “District One”, after seizing “District Two” on Tuesday.

 District Two has been liberated,” Reda Issa, a spokesman for the pro-government forces, told reporters.

The neighbourhood is now completely under control of our forces,” he said, adding that his side had overcome fierce opposition from ISIL snipers and car bombs.

The advance came a day after loyalists cleared and demined areas captured in earlier clashes.

ISIL, also known as ISIS, seized control of Sirte, the birth place of Libya’s overthrown leader Muammar Gaddafi, last year and controlled about 250km of the country’s Mediterranean coastline before forces aligned to the nascent, UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) began operations against it in May.