Middle East

Fighting rages overnight in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Heavy fighting raged through the night in the battle for the Libyan capital Tripoli, with neither side able to secure gains on the frontlines as an offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar entered its fifth week.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied to a parallel administration based in Benghazi, has in the past week brought up more troops and heavy guns to the frontline.

But it has been unable to breach the defenses in the city’s southern suburbs of forces loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. 

Heavy fighting raged from Thursday afternoon until Friday early morning in the area of the former international airport but the frontline has again little changed, residents said.

The LNA moved up on one part of the front earlier this week but was repelled by the Tripoli forces, who had built barriers, including shipping containers, on southern roads where tanks and artillery guns are located.

The Tripoli forces have regained some ground but analysts say the threat of the LNA will persist as long as it keep its forward base in Gharyan, a town 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli.

The town is difficult to take because it lies in the mountains that rise from the coastal plain where Tripoli is located.

The LNA has been sending troops and material to Gharayn by road from Haftar’s power base in Benghazi, the main eastern city, or via the central air base in Jufrah, military sources say.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Angus MacSwan

FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar (C), the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, leaves after an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

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