The Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, has confirmed its move towards the city of Derna following its liberation of the city of Benghazi from the control of Islamist militants.
The move has added to the speculation over the last few weeks that following the recapture of Benghazi, the LNA would move its operation to the militant stronghold in Derna.
Over the weekend, the commander of the Omar Mukhtar Operations Room, Brigadier Salim Al-Rafadi, announced that talks were taking place with elders from Derna to surrender the town without bloodshed.
Al-Rafidi added that despite the talks, the army would enter the town one way or another with the help of the Beida government’s interior ministry to ensure security once the town was recaptured. They would then safe guard power supplies, medicines, fuel and foodstuffs for the local community.
In comments made after the liberation of Benghazi, Haftar said that the battle against terrorism is ongoing in spite of the victory.
“Our battle against terrorism is not yet over until it is uprooted from the entire Libyan territory,” Haftar explained to Russian news agency Sputnik.
Despite ousting Islamist militants from Benghazi, “the road is still long and arduous to achieve our ambitions and reach our goals”, he added.
According to the military strongman, key oil fields still remained under threat from criminal gangs and terrorists and that his forces would work “day and night” to clear the country of such groups.
Despite an end to the army’s operation of clearing the city of Benghazi, much of it is still covered in unexploded mines and traps.
The military engineering teams, despite their limited capabilities, have a serious and arduous task in removing mines and booby traps planted by terrorists on the roads between residential neighbourhoods and inside houses, mosques, schools and public squares
Benghazi was declared liberated after a three year battle between militants and the LNA that began in 2014 when LNA senior officers announced the start of “Operation Dignity” as a response to the rise in violence in the city which had seen the assassination of more than 150 former and serving police and army officers, lawyers, journalists and civil society activists.
The militant groups that had taken over the city included the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council, Daesh and Ansar Al-Sharia.