Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar on Thursday declared victory against rivals including local fighters and Islamists in the city of Derna, the last bastion of opposition against him in the east of the country.
Taking Derna, a city of 125,000 about 265 km (165 miles) west of Libya’s border with Egypt, marks an important step for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) as it tries to consolidate its power.
“Yesterday, your military announced the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism after a bitter struggle and grave sacrifices. This victorious day we announce proudly the liberation of the city of Derna and its safe return to this nation’s bosom”, Haftar said.
Today, the banner of terrorism is lowered by your victories, to be replaced by the banner of peace and tranquility, despite the terrorists and those who support them.
Based in eastern Libya, the LNA is one of the main factions that have vied for power since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that ended more than four decades of rule by Muammar Gaddafi.
Haftar added ‘’ today, the banner of terrorism is lowered by your victories, to be replaced by the banner of peace and tranquility, despite the terrorists and those who support them’‘.
It was not possible to independently verify the extent of LNA control in central Derna, where the LNA’s rivals had been holding out. Military sources said the victory announcement followed clashes in the city on Thursday and heavy airstrikes against the LNA’s opponents.