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Haftar forces seize control of disputed southern Libya airbase

Haftar's forces took control of an airbase in southern Libya. [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 May, 2017

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Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar said they had taken control of an airbase in southern Libya following a stand-off with the rival GNA faction.

Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar said on Thursday that they had taken control of an airbase in southern Libya following a stand-off with a rival faction from the Western city of Misrata.

Members of Haftar's militia, the Libyan National Army (LNA), posted pictures and videos of themselves driving into the Tamanhent airbase, Reuters reported. The base was previously controlled by the Third Force militia, loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

The base, 32 kilometres northeast of the city of Sabha, appeared empty as Haftar's forces entered, and will now extend the LNA's power in Libya's central desert region.

The LNA, under Haftar's control, has been pushing west and south in the country since late last year after rejecting the GNA's authority, seeking control of capital city Tripoli.

Both sides represent the main factions in ever-changing alliances within a power struggle that has raged in the country since 2014.

On Wednesday, the Third Force reportedly withdrew from the Sharara oil field west of Sabha, officials aligned with the LNA told Reuters.

Last week, the Third Force attacked an airbase northwest of Tamanhent used by Haftar's LNA, killing as many as 141 soldiers

The victims included civilians, according to pro-Haftar forces, with reports of summary executions.

Days later, forces loyal to Haftar carried out retaliatory airstrikes in Hun and Jufra in the country's south.

"Warplanes launched airstrikes overnight Saturday as part of the Martyrs of Brak al-Shati operation," reported the LANA news agency, aligned with Libya's eastern government.

The GNA condemned the airstrikes and called for an "immediate end to this bombing in order to preserve civil peace", a statement said.

Libya's Tripoli-based unity government and the rival administration in eastern Libya are battling for influence over the war-torn country, which has suffered from deep instability since the fall of Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

The LNA does not recognise the authority of the GNA, and instead supports the rival authorities based in the east.


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