Cairo: Forces of Libya’s powerful army commander Khalifa Haftar have reported gains in their ongoing campaign to capture the besieged militant bastion of Derna in the east.
The forces said they had seized two suburbs in the south-western section of Derna, the last eastern town that is still out of the army’s control.
“The entire region in the south-western entrance to Derna is now under the control of the Libyan army units’ control,” they said in a statement.
The army warplanes on Monday struck arms depots of extremists in the town, military sources said. The planes also dropped leaflets in the town calling the insurgents for surrender and promising those turning themselves fair trial, they added in media remarks.
The coastal town is controlled by an alliance of radical Islamists led by the so-called Shura Council, believed to be linked to Al Qaida.
Earlier this month, Haftar ordered a massive military campaign on Derna that has been besieged by his forces since mid-2015.
The reported progress comes as France is making a new peacemaking bid in Libya that has experienced anarchy and political feud since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 armed revolt.
The North African country is split by two competing administrations: one in the capital Tripoli and the second in the city of Tobruk in the east.
France is hosting on Tuesday an international conference in Paris expected to be attended by Libya’s main rivals. French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Haftar, his allied speaker of the east-based parliament Aqila Saleh, head of the UN-backed government based in Tripoli Fayez Al Serraj and head of the advisory High Council of State Khalid Al Mishiri.
Representatives of 19 countries, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and regional powers, will also attend.
Last year, Haftar and Al Serraj met near Paris in talks brokered by Macron. At the time, they agreed a ceasefire and elections in Libya. Tuesday’s gathering is aimed at pushing forward to the roadmap implementation.
Haftar has been leading a relentless drive against extremists in Libya since May 2014.The 75-year-old commander has established a clout and expanded territorial control in Libya in recent years.