Cairo: Libyan forces, led by the country’s strongman Khalifa Haftar, has seized a main port in Derna, gaining control of most of the eastern city from Islamist militants, Libyan media reported on Monday.
Last month, pro-Haftar forces started a long-anticipated offensive on Derna, the last eastern city outside the control of the Libyan administration based in the east. They have since captured large parts of the city.
Derna is the stronghold of an alliance of radical Islamists led by the so-called Shura Council, believed to be linked to Al Qaida.
The Libyan National Army, commanded by Haftar, late Sunday announced seizing the Derna port that leads to the main streets in the Mediterranean Sea city, located around 300 kilometres from Benghazi where Haftar started an anti-militant campaign four years ago.
The Benghazi-based Ports Security Directorate said on Monday it will take steps to re-operate the Derna harbour and called on security personnel to report to work there.
Spokesman for the army Ahmad Al Mesmari said that the complete liberation of Derna will be announced soon, according to television Libya 24.
Al Mesmari also called on locals, displaced by the fight, to return to the city.
“The Dignity Operations Room urges all inhabitants of Derna, who left their houses during military operations, to return to their houses after they have been secured by the army troops,” Al Mesmari said on his Facebook page.
The army’s progress inside Derna comes amid concerns about the humanitarian situation there.
The UN reported this month that the city’s residents, trapped by fight, were suffering from severe shortages of food, medical and water supplies and electricity outages.
Haftar‘s forces have besieged the city since mid-2015
The 75-year-old commander has established a clout and expanded territorial control in Libya in recent years.
Libya has descended into 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 in the west and the second in the city of Tobruk in the east.