Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government patrol the entrance of Sirte on June 10 as they advance to recapture the city from ISIS jihadists. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

Forces allied with Libya’s unity government said Saturday they had recaptured the port in the jihadist bastion of Sirte, advancing rapidly against Islamic State group fighters encircled inside the city.

The fall of Sirte, the hometown of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, would be a major setback for the extremists who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq, where they have declared an Islamic "caliphate".

Apart from the port, the Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main IS base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told AFP.

The jihadists are now surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometers (two square miles) inside Sirte where they are laying booby traps, he said.

Most of the city’s residents have fled but some 30,000 remain, Issa said.

After a month-long operation to close in on Sirte, the rapid pace of the advance by forces allied to the Government of National Accord (GNA) who entered the city on Wednesday has surprised Libyan authorities.

"The battle wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be," one government official said. "Maybe we exaggerated their (IS’s)…

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