Libya forces launch new air strikes on Misrata

An air force unit commander said war planes had hit Misrata port and an air force academy located in the western city

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Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government on Saturday staged air strikes on the commercial port of Misrata, a western city allied to a group that holds the capital Tripoli, both sides said.

Fighting was also reported near the country’s biggest oil export port located in the east, part of a struggle between troops loyal to two competing governments and parliaments.

The internationally recognized prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been forced to run a rump state in the east since a group known as Libya Dawn linked to Misrata took control of Tripoli last August and set up a rival government.

Saqer al-Joroushi, commander of an air force unit loyal to Thinni, said war planes had hit Misrata port and an air force academy located in the western city.

A state news agency loyal to the rival Tripoli government confirmed the air strikes, saying two people had been wounded when several rockets hit a port building.

Also, the Libyan parliament decided to reinstate former army chief Khalifa Haftar and a number of other officers, Al Arabiya News Channel reported Saturday. And it has been reported that forces loyal to Haftar were behind the Saturday’s air strikes on Misrata.

Haftar’s spokesman, Maj. Mohamed al-Hijazi told The Anadolu Agency by phone that “we’ve said before that we would bomb the port of Misrata if it comes to pose a threat.”

“On Saturday, our air force bombed the [Misurata] port, because it was being used to transport weapons, ammunition and terrorist elements,” Hijazi said.

Misrata, 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli, has a major sea port and free trade zone. The city had so far mostly escaped the fighting that has threatened to break up Libya.

Separately, troops loyal to Thinni said they had attacked a rival force which three weeks ago tried to seize the Es Sider oil port, the country’s biggest.

Thinni’s troops moved on fighters who have been holding positions in Ben Jawad, some 40 km west of the port, said a spokesman for Thinni’s troops.

“There are clashes with heavy weapons,” he said, adding that two of his troops had been killed and two others wounded.

Es Sider and the adjacent Ras Lanuf oil ports have been closed since the clashes started, depriving Libya of an estimated 300,000 barrels of day of crude production.

Since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has failed to attain stability. Former rebel brigades which once fought side by side have now turned on each other, aligning themselves with rival political factions in a scramble for control.