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Four Libyan soldiers killed in fighting as Haftar's forces push south

Clashes are first real resistance the general's army has faced since arriving in the south two weeks ago from Benghazi
Haftar dominates eastern Libya and is allied to a parallel government that opposes the Tripoli administration (AFP)

At least four Libyan soldiers were killed on Friday when forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who controls eastern Libya, fought with a local armed group as they sought to expand south, military officials have said.

An official at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that overall the fighting had killed 14 and wounded 64, mostly from opponents of Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

Friday's clashes were the first real resistance the LNA has faced since arriving in the south two weeks ago from its main eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

LNA officials said clashes began when soldiers left the main southern city of Sabha and arrived in the nearby town of Ghudduwah.

It backed troops with air strikes on the "terrorists" and "Chadian mercenaries," the officials said, using a pejorative for Chadian opposition groups active in south Libya, the Reuters news agency reported.

As well as the four LNA fatalities, several of its soldiers were wounded, the officials said.

A WHO official said on Twitter the organisation had delivered emergency supplies to a local hospital.

The LNA spent the last two weeks securing Sabha, which had been nominally under the control of the internationally recognised government in Tripoli but was in practice run by local groups including tribes.

The LNA says its campaign is intended to combat Islamic fighters and secure oil facilities in the south, which include El Sharara oilfield, Libya's biggest. The oilfield has been closed since December when tribesmen and state guards seized it.

The LNA is allied to a parallel government in Benghazi that opposes the Tripoli administration.