Libya’s Government of National Accord captures strategic airbase

TRIPOLI, LIBYA - APRIL 22: Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) forces attack the militias of renegade general Khalifa Haftar as they launch an operation in Tripoli, Libya on April 22, 2020. GNA forces launched an offensive against Haftar's militia in the Al-Khallatat area, the south of the capital Tripoli. Hazem Turkia / Anadolu Agency

Forces allied with Libya’s internationally recognized  government have seized the  Al-Watiya airbase, a key military base on the outskirts of the country’s capital from fighters loyal to renegade military commander General  Khalifa Haftar.

Military spokesman Mohamed Gnunu said in a Twitter post on Monday the forces of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken over the entirety of the base near the Tunisian border.

The announcement by the administration of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj came after a month-long counteroffensive that has seen forces allied to it drive Haftar’s troops out of much of Libya’s western coast.

Haftar launched  an offensive Haftar  to take Tripoli in a lightning operation in April 2019, but his forces have been mired in fighting ever since resulting in a stalemated conflict that has killed more than 1,000 people.

It’s a symbolic success for the counter-offensive that the GNA has been mounting against Gen. Haftar’s forces for the past month.

The airbase has been an important asset for Gen Haftar for several years – its loss is another setback to his drive against the GNA from his power base in eastern Libya.

Libya a major oil producer, has been mired in chaos since 2011 when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising.

It is now split between two rival administrations: The GNA in Tripoli and the eastern-based House of Representatives allied withGeneral  Haftar and his  Libyan National Army.

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