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Libya government forces capture key base from rival Haftar

Haftar's forces have suffered setbacks in recent weeks [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 18 May, 2020

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Libyan government forces have captured the strategic al-Watiya airbase from rogue General Khalifa Haftar, officials say.
Forces allied with Libya's UN-backed government said on Monday they have wrested control of a key military base on the outskirts of the country's capital from their rivals trying to capture Tripoli.

The development is a heavy setback for forces loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging a campaign for over a year to take Tripoli. The battle for the capital has killed hundreds and displaced more than 200,000.

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, a spokesman for the Tripoli-allied forces, said they retook the al-Watiya airbase in the city's southwestern desert reaches. He did not provide details. A spokesman for Haftar's forces was not immediately available for comment.

Forces linked to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) have been trying for weeks to take the base, stepping up attacks by Turkish-supplied drones.

Haftar's forces have sustained heavy losses in recent weeks.

In April, Tripoli-allied forces seized control of the city of Sabrata and the town of Sorman, west of Tripoli.

The escalation in the fighting comes despite increased international pressure on both sides to return to negotiating a political settlement and to halt the violence over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Libya has reported at least 65 cases of the virus, including three deaths.

Haftar's push on Tripoli has mostly stalemated but the turmoil in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervene - despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.

Turkey has sent armoured drones, air defenses and more recently Syrian militants to prop up the embattled Tripoli government. Russia, meanwhile, has deployed hundreds of mercenaries to boost Haftar's assault. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt also back Haftar with military and financial support.

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