Libya’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar on Wednesday said his forces had taken full control of Libya’s second city Benghazi from rival armed groups after a three-year campaign.
The battle for Benhazi between Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army and an array of Islamist militants and other fighters has been part of a broader conflict since Libya slipped into chaos following the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
“We attacked around half an hour ago, we have many fallen and wounded soldiers. We are special forces, and we’ve known exactly when terrorism began, it wasn’t recently, it was since 1989. ISIS know us well, terrorists know us well, and we continue to bear the responsibility because of these martyrs (those killed in fighting), may God rest their souls in peace,” said East Libyan forces Colonel, Wanes Bukhamada.
We attacked around half an hour ago, we have many fallen and wounded soldiers. We are special forces, and we've known exactly when terrorism began.
The victory would mark a major advance for the former Gaddafi ally who has slowly gained ground in eastern and southern Libya in defiance of a U.N.-backed government in the west in the capital Tripoli that is struggling to extend its influence.
Haftar, who has made little secret of ambitions to enter Tripoli against rivals there he portrays as Islamist militants, has backing from foreign powers, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and has cultivated closer ties with Moscow.
Although weakened, the unity government in Tripoli enjoys the support of most Western powers as the only institution capable of halting the OPEC state’s slide into further chaos and conflict.