Army makes new territorial gains as Khalifa Haftar reaches out to Russia

Libya Channel

 

The Libyan Army has seized new territory in Benghazi, leaving just “last pockets of resistance”, military officials have said.

 

The Army has re-taken southwest coastal neighbourhoods of Busnib, al-Najila as well as Nairuz beach resort, their spokesperson said Thursday. They have also captured the customs headquarters in the nearby district of Ganfuda.

 

“We control almost everything on the Gawarsha – Ganfuda axis and we have started clearing the last pockets of resistance, which have become very weak,” military spokesperson Colonel Ahmed al-Mismari told Libya Channel. “The real challenge is the landmines and boobytraps.”

 

The death from the latest clash is not known but on Tuesday the army said some 22 soldiers were killed an 61 injured in the battle to retake nearby Garyunis.

 

The latest wins mean that Army forces now control most of Benghazi’s sprawling southwestern districts.

 

Brigadier-General Jamal al-Zahawi, commander of the Brigade 21, asked citizens not to go near these districts, saying they are riddled with improvised explosive devices and land mines. The army is working to clear them.

 

There were no statements released by the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, the armed coalition that the Libyan Army is fighting alongside Al-Qaeda-aligned Ansar al-Sharia and the Islamic State Group.

 

The latest territorial wins come just a day after divisive Army chief General Khalifa Haftar flew to Russia to seek Moscow’s support in the ongoing conflict. According to Russian media he discussed possible weapons deliveries with Russia’s top national security chief, defense minister and foreign minister on Monday and Tuesday.

 

Sources told Libya Channel that the two key points discussed in the meetings were lifting or easing a five-year UN-imposed arms embargo and Russia’s support for the Libyan Army in the fight against terrorism, particularly in terms of training. Haftar also spoke with Russian chiefs of the infantry, air force and navy, as well as military advisors.

 

Western countries predominantly recognize the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which controls Tripoli, but has not been endorsed by the parliament in Tobruk.

 

American and British special forces have been fighting alongside west Libyan armed factions loyal to the GNA, according to media reports – which has frustrated Haftar’s camp who claim to have no international support of their own.

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