Haftar targets Islamist’s HQ in fresh offensive

‘Operation Dignity,’ a military operation led by renegade ex-general Khalifa Haftar, targeted the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia

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A military operation led by Libya’s renegade ex-general Khalifa Haftar has targeted positions held by Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi including militant group Ansar al-Sharia’s headquarters, a spokesman said Sunday.

The offensive, dubbed “Operation Dignity,” struck the headquarters of the Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi among other targets, Colonel Mohammed al-Hijazi said on the operation’s official Facebook page.

Hijazi said the operation came after the military obtained intelligence on the Islamist groups, with cooperation with local police in Benghazi.

Backed by military jets flown by pilots who have sided with Haftar, the general’s forces have frequently bombed the outskirts of Benghazi, forcing militias to withdraw from their compounds, Hijazi added.

Surprise raids

The colonel vowed more raids to “surprise” the militants.

Meanwhile, a senior military official told the Associated Press under the condition of anonymity that the Libyan air force jet targeted a base belonging to a local militia group called February 17 in the area of Sidi Faraj, where members of Ansar al-Shariah are located.

Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent meanwhile said there were no reported injuries.

An official from Ansar al-Shariah also told the Associated Press under the condition of anonymity that no one was hurt in the bombing and claimed that one of two rockets fired by the aircraft hit a car dealership, the Associated Press reported.

Breaking the militias

Haftar, who accused some of Libyan officials of collaborating with Islamist radical groups such al-Qaeda, claimed to have more than 75 percent of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, under his control.

“Operation Dignity” is aimed at breaking the strength of Islamic militias and their supporting political factions dominating the parliament, already weakened by constant street protests by Libyans demanding its disbandment.

The general said he is getting support from moderate Islamists who were breaking away from their militias and joining his forces. The eastern city was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Qaddafi.

The 70-year-old Haftar is based in Benghazi, where he has been leading an armed revolt since late last month in what is perhaps the biggest challenge yet to Libya’s weak central government and fledgling security forces since Qaddafi’s ouster.