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Libyan friendly football match blocked by Haftar's forces

Match between Tripoli and Derna's football teams to celebrate IS defeat prevented for alleged 'security reasons'
Libya team players celebrate with their trophy after winning the African Nations Championship in 2014 (AFP)

Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar prevented footballers from a Tripoli-based club from entering the eastern Libyan city of Derna to play a friendly match on Saturday, local media reported.

Al-Ittihad football club was scheduled to play in a match against the local club Darnus, in Derna’s Municipal Stadium, in a match aimed at uniting forces who had defeated the Islamic State group in Libya.

Haftar launched a military campaign dubbed Operation Dignity in May 2014, aimed at rooting out Libya’s many rival militant groups.

Libya's football team poses for a photo prior to their 2014 World Cup qualifying football match against the Democratic Republic of Congo (AFP)

The football match was planned to follow a mass celebration in Derna's Sahaba square on Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of the "defeat of IS" and the liberation of the city. 

Local fans were awaiting the game as part of the city's continued celebrations, but they expressed disappointment when the match was cancelled, local media said. 

The Tripoli-based club was scheduled to play two matches in the eastern region of Libya against Darnus and the Benghazi team al-Ahli. The latter took place on Thursday, on the 70th anniversary of al-Ahli’s founding.

The al-Ittihad team were welcomed by Darnus representatives in Susa, a town east of Benghazi, on their way to Derna, until Dignity Operation forces stepped in, blocking their entry.

According to local media, Darnus officials revealed that the "Omer Al-Mukhtar Operation Room" of the Dignity Operation had contacted the Darnus administration team demanding that the game be moved to Tobruk or al-Bayda. 

The Tripoli club allegedly sent an apology to the Derna club, after being prevented from entering the city. 

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