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Khalifa Haftar announces first air raid on Tripoli suburb

US says troops to be pulled from Libya due to 'increased unrest'
Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government arrive in Tajura, a coastal suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli (AFP)

Forces of Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar said Sunday they had carried out their first air strike on a suburb of Tripoli, where loyalist fighters announced a "counteroffensive" to defend the capital.

The announcement of the air raid was made on the Facebook page of the "media office" of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) as fighting raged around 50km south of Tripoli.

Forces loyal to Haftar have pressed on with their assault since Thursday despite international calls to halt hostilities.

Colonel Mohamed Gnounou told reporters that the counteroffensive, dubbed "Volcano of Anger", was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces".

The US military said Sunday it had temporarily pulled some of its forces out of Libya amid the upsurge of fighting in the North African country.

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"Due to increased unrest in Libya, a contingent of US forces supporting US Africa Command temporarily relocated from the country in response to security conditions on the ground," it said in a statement.

It did not detail how many military personnel had been withdrawn from Libya.

The LNA said its forces had advanced into the outskirts of the capital, seat of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), and taken its former international airport.

The offensive by the LNA, which is allied to a parallel administration based in the main eastern city of Benghazi, intensifies a power struggle that has fractured the oil-producing country since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

In the renewed fighting, forces backing the GNA have launched air strikes on the LNA around 50km south of Tripoli.

Tripoli residents fearing that large-scale fighting could break out have begun stocking up on food and petrol.

US Africa Command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, said its mission in Libya involves "military support to diplomatic missions, counter-terrorism activities, enhancing partnerships and improving security across the region".

It said it would "continue to monitor conditions on the ground in Libya and assess the feasibility for renewed US military presence as appropriate".

"The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said US Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of US Africa Command. 

"Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy."

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