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Mystery air strikes target Libya Islamists

Rebel general Haftar seeks closure of Benghazi port to deny arms to Islamists

Gulf News

Cairo/Benghazi: Commanders and a spokesman for Libya’s Islamist-allied militias said on Monday that four air strikes by unidentified parties hit a western town near the capital Tripoli, killing one person and wounding five.

Mohammad Al Gariani, spokesman for the Libya Dawn alliance, said the air strikes targeted Gharian, 80km south of Tripoli. He said militiamen told residents to leave targeted areas.

A militia commander said the strikes targeted Libya Dawn ammunition warehouses and were aimed at helping rival militias return to Tripoli. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

Meanwhile, forces loyal to former Libyan army general Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi threatened to bomb the eastern city’s port unless authorities there closed it to cut off arms supplies to Islamists, a senior commander said on Monday.

Haftar’s forces are fighting Islamist groups including Ansar Al Sharia for control of the port city, which is the main entry point for wheat and other food imports into eastern Libya.

Haftar emerged as a renegade commander fighting Islamists but has recently entered into a frail alliance with the government.

“We will bomb any ship approaching the coast and hold the port director responsible for it,” Saqr Al Jouroushi, Haftar’s air defence commander, said. Ansar Al Sharia had used the port to get ammunition and weapons, he said.

Western powers and Libya’s neighbours worry the oil producer will turn into a failed state. A weak government has proven unable to control former rebels who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now effectively run the country.

The government has lost control of the capital Tripoli to an armed opposition group from the western city of Misrata forcing senior officials to relocate to Tobruk in the far east.

In Benghazi, special forces have allied themselves with Haftar’s forces to fend off Islamist militants which have overrun several army camps and are trying to seize the civilian and military airports.