Published: Mon, April 22, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Tripoli forces push opponents back slightly south of Libyan capital

Tripoli forces push opponents back slightly south of Libyan capital

Fighting between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated in the past couple of days, a spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army said Saturday, as the death toll rose to at least 220, including combatants and civilians, since the LNA declared a major military offensive to take the capital earlier this month.

Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military intervention. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported that more than 25,000 people have been displaced by the clashes.

Soon after the announcement, the residents said they heard rocket and artillery fire in several districts of the capital Tripoli.

It is unclear whether an unmanned drone or aircraft was behind the air strike.

The LNA-backed parliament controls the east of Libya, while the UN-backed interim Government of National Accord (GNA) governs Libya's western region from Tripoli.

Powerful explosions, believed to be caused by aerial bombing, were reported early yesterday across Tripoli's southern districts, with residents saying they saw an aircraft circling for more than 10 minutes over the city before opening fire on a southern district.

Military sources say the ageing Soviet and Russian fighter jets used by both sides are not equipped to carry out night time strikes, but Mejii said Haftar's forces have a helicopter with night vision capabilities.

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Saoradh, translating to liberation in Irish, is a grouping which has the support of the dissident republican group the New IRA. President Bill Clinton, a key player in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace accord, saying he was "heartbroken".

He has led previous campaigns against Islamic militants and other rivals in eastern Libya, and has received support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia and France.

He said militias allied with the United Nations -supported government launched airstrikes on the Alwatya air base, southwest of Tripoli.

The attackers had late on Saturday flown air strikes on southern areas of Tripoli, with residents blaming drones after listening for nearly an hour the typical summing of an unmanned aircraft.

The UAE even built an air base in Al Khadim in eastern Libya, one such report said in 2017. Europe and the Gulf have been divided over a push by Haftar's forces to seize Tripoli.

Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west. President Donald Trump phoned Hifter earlier this week, expressing U.S. support for the leader's perceived stance against terrorism.

The White House statement said Trump recognised Haftar's "significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources", during the conversation on Monday.

On Thursday, both the United States and Russian Federation said they could not support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a Libya ceasefire at this time. No more details were available immediately.

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