By Frederic Wehrey and Emad Badi.
Among the conflict-scarred pockets of Libya’s fractured landscape, the central coastal city of Sirte is a place of distinctive despair.
Strategically located at the western edge of the country’s petroleum-rich “oil crescent,” it sits on the fault-line of Libya’s opposing factional forces.
For many in the West, however, it is most famous as a loyalist haven, the place where Libyan dictator Mo‘ammar al-Qaddafi fled in his final days and met his end during the 2011 revolution.
Then it entered the spotlight again as the place where the Islamic State established its strongest territorial outpost outside of Syria and Iraq, before the group was ousted by Libyan forces backed by Western airpower and special forces in 2016.