BENGHAZI: Libyan forces loyal to a controversial general have wrestled back control of a Benghazi neighbourhood from jihadists, following months of fighting to drive the Islamists from the country’s second city.
General Khalifa Haftar’s troops took the al-Gwarcha district of Benghazi, which has been marred by unrest since his fighters launched a campaign to drive extremists out of the city earlier this year.
“We dealt them a firm blow, it’s a major victory,” Khalifa al-Obeidi, head of press for Haftar’s Libyan National Army, told AFP Thursday.
“We are presently pursuing terrorists who are entrenched one kilometre east.”
Six of Haftar’s fighters died in clashes this week in al-Gwarcha district, including four special forces killed by a landmine explosion.
Haftar’s forces have regained several districts of Benghazi in recent months but have yet to retake the whole city.
The divisive leader refuses to recognise the joint military command set by the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNA) in Tripoli, saying he still takes orders from a rival administration based in the far eastern city of Tobruk.
France, Britain and the United States also recognise the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya.
Benghazi, 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of Tripoli, has for the past two years been the scene of clashes between Islamists and forces loyal to the government based in eastern Libya.
Jihadists such as the Islamic State group took root in Libya in late 2014, taking advantage of the chaos and power struggles that followed the fall of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime in a 2011 revolution.