Pro-govt fighters make key gains in Libya’s Benghazi

Libya has had rival administrations since the summer of 2014 when the recognized government fled the capital Tripoli

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Fighters loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government said Tuesday they were close to seizing the center of second city Benghazi after gains against Islamist militias including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

“We entered most of the sectors controlled by terrorist groups in Lithi” in central Benghazi, a military source told AFP.

The press office of Libya’s General Command, which supports the recognized administration, said it would announce the liberation of Lithi, a bastion of Islamist militias including ISIS, “imminently.”

Four people were also killed in clashes near the Libyan capital on Tuesday between ISIS and fighters loyal to the Tripoli-based government, a local official said.

The four dead men were members of the Sabratha military council which backs the Fajr Libya militia alliance in control of the capital, said Hussein al-Dawadi, mayor of Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

Libya has had rival administrations since the summer of 2014 when the recognized government fled Tripoli after a militia alliance including Islamists overran the capital.

Fighting has flared periodically in Benghazi as security forces try to wrest neighborhoods from armed groups including ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia, which is close to Al-Qaeda.

At least 19 pro-government troops were killed over the weekend in clashes that saw loyalists seize Al-Marayseh port in western Benghazi and Al-Hawari hospital in the south.

Medical sources in Benghazi said Tuesday that more than 20 loyalist fighters had died in the operation to retake the city.

Earlier this month the military announced that one of its fighter jets had been shot down as it carried out air strikes on opposition positions in the coastal city.

Chaos engulfing Libya since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in 2011 has fostered the rise of ISIS which has based itself in the former dictator’s hometown of Sirte in eastern Libya.

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