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Libyan forces brace for offensive on militant bastion

Derna is the last town outside Haftar-led army’s control in east Libya

Gulf News

Cairo: Armed forces based in eastern Libya are in the final stages of preparing for a major offensive on the militant-controlled port town of Derna, media close to the east-based Libyan National Army reported on Sunday.

Chief of the Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdul Raziq Al Nadouri on Saturday met with top military commanders and reviewed the latest preparations for the “liberation” of Derna, a media centre linked to the Libyan National Army said.

“At the meeting, Lt-Gen Al Nadouri gave instructions about storming the town,” the centre said in an online statement.

Derna is the last eastern town, which is still outside the control of the faction of the Libyan army led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar. His forces have pursued an anti-militant campaign since 2014.

Derna is controlled by an alliance of radical Islamists led by the so-called Shura Council, believed to be linked to Al Qaida.

Haftar’s forces have been besieging the town since mid-2015. Negotiations for handover of Derna by militants have gone nowhere.

Haftar is now in Paris receiving treatment for unspecified health problems. The 75-year-old commander has established a clout and expanded territorial control in Libya in recent years.

Last week, Haftar was quoted as saying that his forces will move to seize Derna.

“Citizens demand liberation of Derna after a lot of time has been spent in believing that a peaceful solution is possible,” he added, according to a military statement.

Libya has been in the grip of violent anarchy and political instability since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 armed revolt.

The North African country is being riveted by two competing administrations: one in the capital Tripoli and the second in the eastern city of Tobruk. The United Nations’ efforts to resolve the feud have been unsuccessful so far.

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