Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government said on Friday they entered Tarhuna, the last major stronghold of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar in the west, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Haftar’s self-style Libyan National Army (LNA) was pushed from its last positions in Tripoli a day earlier, the latest of in a series of battlefield defeats.
“From here, Haftar’s forces had a central command for the past year, and from here Russian military experts – with UAE and Egyptian military experts – have been running the battles,” he said as militiamen fired assault weapons in celebration.
Government forces now may target the Haftar-controlled city of Bani Walid to the south, said Abdelwahed.
Turkey’s backing has helped the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) win a string of victories in recent weeks, ending the assault on Tripoli that led to battles in its southern suburbs and the bombardment of the city centre.
The GNA operations room said its forces had reached the centre of Tarhuna after entering from four sides.
“Our heroic forces entered the city of Tarhuna from four axes and reached the city centre … and they gave the Haftar terrorist militia a lesson they will not forget,” said Mohammed Gnounou, a GNA military spokesman, in a statement.
Mostafa al-Majai, another GNA military spokesman, said government forces entered Tarhuna without a fight after the LNA pulled out of the city into the desert.
“No reprisal acts have taken place inside the city. A large number of residents left it days ago. This has made it easy to establish security there,” he said.
‘No reprisal acts’
Libya’s conflict is far from over, however, with the LNA still controlling the country’s east, where there is a parallel administration, and large parts of the south, where the main oilfields are located.
The LNA is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt. The United Nations has warned a recent flood of weapons and fighters to both sides in Libya risks a major new escalation.
GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj vowed his government would take control over all of Libya.
“Our fight continues and we are determined to defeat the enemy, impose state control on the whole of the homeland and destroy all those who jeopardise the construction of a civil, democratic and modern state,” al-Sarraj said after talks with Turkish officials in Ankara.