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Libya's Haftar retakes district south of Tripoli

By AFP - Jun 01,2020 - Last updated at Jun 01,2020

TRIPOLI — Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces said they retook a district south of Tripoli on Monday, after a series of losses to pro-unity government troops.

"Units of the armed forces were able to seize the Al Assabia area this morning after a string of air strikes" on forces backing the Government of National Accord, said Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar's forces.

Images and videos on social media and Libyan television appeared to show Haftar's troops entering the area, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Tripoli.

Pro-GNA forces said Monday they had escalated their own air raids in Al-Assabia, without confirming they had lost the district.

"The air force targeted three military vehicles (an Emirati Tiger armoured vehicle, an ammunition truck and a truck mounted with a 14.5 anti-aircraft gun), on the edges of Al-Assabia, spokesman Mohamad Gnunu said.

He said pro-GNA forces had been ordered to “crush the rebels... without mercy or pity”.

The 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qadhafi plunged Libya into years of chaos, with two rival administrations and scores of militias struggling for power. 

Haftar, who controls much of eastern and southern Libya, launched an offensive last spring to seize Tripoli from the United Nations-recognised GNA.

Foreign support for the warring parties has added to the fighting, with Haftar receiving Emirati and Russian support while Turkey has increasingly backed the GNA with drones and air defence systems.

The offensive quickly stalled on the edges of the capital, and in recent weeks GNA forces have taken back a string of towns and districts around the capital including key coastal cities further west and the strategic airbase of Al Watiya. 

Over the past year, the fighting has left hundreds of dead including many civilians and forced some 200,000 people to flee their homes.

On Sunday, rocket fire on Tripoli killed at least five civilians, the GNA said, blaming Haftar’s forces.

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