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Libya government captures strategic airbase from Haftar

Smoke rises after warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces launched an attack on a port near the Martyrs' Square, where celebration events marking the 9th anniversary of February 17 revolution are held, in eastern Tripoli, Libya on February 18, 2020. [Aydoğan Kalabalık - Anadolu Agency]
Smoke rises after warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces launched an attack on a port near the Martyrs' Square, where celebration events marking the 9th anniversary of February 17 revolution are held, in eastern Tripoli, Libya on February 18, 2020. [Aydoğan Kalabalık - Anadolu Agency]

Libya’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has captured a strategic airbase from the rival forces of Brigadier General Khalifa Haftar today, in its latest strides to repel the offensive on Tripoli.

The Libyan government’s military spokesman Mohamed Qanunu confirmed the capture of the airbase in a Twitter post today.

The capture of the Al-Watiya airbase, located around 25 kilometres from Libya’s border with Tunisia, and which was seized by Haftar in 2014, has secured a strategic area for government forces and will reportedly enable the government to focus its efforts on repelling Haftar’s forces in southern Tripoli.

The victory comes as part of a recent counter-offensive launched by the government against the attempted coup and invasion and has followed on from numerous other missions achieved by government forces in which they captured several strategic areas and towns in recent weeks.

Haftar and the Gulf states are leading a hypocritical, fake war against Islamism in Libya

It also came after the Libyan army destroyed three Russian-made Pantsir-type air defence systems belonging to Haftar’s forces over the weekend, which were supplied by the United Arab Emirates.

Following the overthrow and killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been in a state of civil war with the UN-backed GNA in the west and Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the east fighting for control over Libya.

While the government is militarily assisted by Turkey and officially backed by others in the international community, Haftar is backed by a myriad of foreign sponsors including the UAE, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.

Last week, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which played a senior role in Gaddafi’s overthrow, announced its official support for the GNA led by Fayez Al-Sarraj.

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