23 February 2016

Libya: Govt Forces Wrestle Benghazi From Militant Grasp

Libyan forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government have seized control of the central neighborhood al-Laithi in Benghazi, amid a military campaign to regain the coastal city from militant factions.

Libyan army chief General Khalifa Hifter, who spearheaded the military operation in Benghazi, said in a video statement that the breakthrough was a result of "much patience."

"We have totally liberated the area of al-Laithi," said Fadel al-Hassi, a member of Libya's special forces.

Armed factions, including the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) militant group and al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia, have increasingly gained traction in the country following a 2011 uprising that resulted in the killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The successes of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria are forcing the terror organization toward Libya. The West will have no choice but to take up the fight there, says Max Hofmann.

Celebrations

Libyans took to the streets of al-Laithi - once Benghazi's most populous district - to celebrate the victory, carrying banners and Libyan flags.

However, residents were stopped from entering certain parts of the neighborhood as loyalist forces continued to comb buildings for booby traps.

The victory comes as Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition fighting the "Islamic State," said the militant group is trying to recruit more fighters to join their campaign in the North African country.

Last Friday, the US carried out airstrikes against a militant training camp in Libya, saying they had hit a target of "high value."

ls/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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