TRIPOLI: Libya’s UN-recognised unity government said on Thursday that it was back in full control of the capital and its suburbs after more than a year of fighting off an offensive by eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar.
“Our heroic forces have full control of Greater Tripoli right up to the city limits,” Mohamad Gnounou, spokesman for the forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), said in a Facebook post.
The announcement came after GNA forces retook the capital’s civilian airport on Wednesday, more than a year after losing it in Haftar’s initial drive on the capital.
The head of the government, Fayez al-Sarraj, said his forces were “determined” to take over the entire country from Haftar.
“Our fight continues and we are determined to defeat the enemy, impose state control on the whole of the homeland and destroy all those who jeopardise the construction of a civil, democratic and modern state,” he said in Ankara after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his main supporter.
The airport, in Tripoli’s southern outskirts, had been disused since 2014 when it was heavily damaged in fighting between rival militias.
“Our forces are continuing their advance, chasing the terrorist militias from the walls of Tripoli,” said the GNA’s deputy defence minister Salah Namrush.
“Some of their commanders are fleeing towards Bani Walid airport,” in the interior 170 kilometres southeast of the capital, he added on Facebook.
Footage of GNA troops manning positions held until recently by Haftar’s fighters was widely circulated on Libyan television channels and social media.
The fighting for the capital had killed hundreds and forced around 200,000 people to flee.
GNA forces, boosted by Turkish drones and air defences, have made a string of gains from Haftar’s forces in recent months.
Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia.
The United Nations has urged outside powers to respect a deal reached at a January conference in Berlin, ending foreign meddling and upholding a much-violated arms embargo.
While a January truce brokered by Turkey and Russia has been repeatedly violated, the UN said talks on a ceasefire resumed on Wednesday, welcoming it as a “positive” first step.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020