Libya’s strong man Marshal Khalifa Haftar, on Monday announced that the “victory” of his forces was “near” in east Derna, a city controlled by Islamist and jihadist militias and where the humanitarian situation is critical.
Forces loyal to Haftar have been conducting a military offensive since last month to “liberate” Derna, the only area in eastern Libya to escape the control of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (NLA) he leads.
This coastal town, located more than 1,000 km east of Tripoli and about 300 km east of Benghazi, is under the control of Islamist and jihadist militias since the fall of Moamar Kadhafi in 2011.
In a video posted to YouTube, Marshal Haftar, said his forces had already “cleaned up” the Derna suburbs.
Khalifa Haftar also said once Derna is “liberated”, his forces will deploy into the city to take “total control” of infrastructure ,adding they will ensure the safety of residents and buildings by establishing security barriers.
Haftar also asked his troops to “respect the legal procedures relating to prisoners and deliver them to the competent organizations.
The NLA, whose ground forces are supported by air raids and heavy artillery bombardment, has been besieging the city for nearly two years.
Members of forces loyal to Haftar have been accused of alleged criminal acts in previous fighting, such as Commander Mahmoud Al-Werfalli, who has an arrest warrant issued since August 2017 by the International Criminal Court on charges of “war crimes” during the Battle of Benghazi.
The big city of eastern Libya was taken last year by the NLA, which had driven Islamist groups and jihadists who occupied it after three years of deadly fighting.
Khalifa Haftar has the support of the authorities based in eastern Libya, who strongly oppose the national unity government, based in Tripoli and recognized by the international community and the UN.
Last week, the international organization for migration said that the humanitarian situation in Derna was critical and more than 2,000 people had fled “because of bombings and air raids”.
On Friday, the UN mission in Libya aid that at least 17 civilians were killed in a two week fighting, adding that clashes “increasingly encroach on densely populated areas.”