Haftar declares victory in Libya's Benghazi

#LibyaCrisis

Haftar says his self-styled Libyan National Army controls country's second city after three-year campaign

LNA members fire tank during recent clashes in Benghazi's al-Hout market area (AFP)
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Thursday 6 July 2017 10:44 UTC
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Libya's eastern force commander Khalifa Haftar said on Wednesday his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) had defeated rival armed groups in Benghazi after a three-year campaign for control of Libya's second city.

"Your armed forces declare to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism, a full liberation and a victory of dignity against terrorism," Haftar said, wearing a white uniform in a televised speech.

Fighting over Benghazi between Haftar's forces against an array of Islamist militants and other fighters was part of a broader conflict among rival factions since the North African state slipped into chaos after the 2011 fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Code-named Operation Dignity, the assault led by Haftar targeted several militant groups that had overrun Benghazi since the uprising.

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These include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of militias that have among them suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group and the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia.

Haftar's announcement came only hours after the LNA said it had cornered the last militants in a neighbourhood of the eastern city, which had been the cradle of the uprising.

The LNA said they were surrounding the foes in al-Sabri central district after routing them from the Soug al-Hout neighbourhood.

LNA General Abdessalam al-Hassi told AFP the militants were cornered in a small part of al-Sabri and under attack from air strikes, as well as ground forces on three fronts.

Last week a medical source in the city said 44 LNA soldiers had been killed in June alone in al-Sabri and Soug al-Hout.

Haftar does not recognise the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and instead backs a rival parliament based in the country's far east.

In May, the Libyan foreign minister called on Haftar to accept the government in Tripoli.

"Haftar must first accept to work under a civilian authority and officially approve the political deal" that gave rise to the power-sharing authority, Mohamed al-Taher Siala told AFP.