East Libyan forces take desert air base as they push west | Reuters

BENGHAZI, Libya Libyan forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said they had taken the strategic military base of Jufra on Saturday after rival factions withdrew.The move consolidates control for Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) over the central desert regions of Jufra and Sabha, where they have recently taken a string of towns and bases.It could also be a key step in the LNA's stated goal of moving towards the capital, Tripoli.On Friday, after the LNA entered towns just south of Jufra military base, its spokesman said its forces would gradually move towards the town of Bani Walid, nearly 350 km (215 miles) northwest of Jufra.

Jufra is just over 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Benghazi, and about the same distance southeast of Tripoli.The LNA is aligned with a parliament and government based in eastern Libya that have rejected a U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli.

Haftar met the head of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) a month ago in Abu Dhabi, pledging to calm tensions in the south and producing hopes of a political deal that could stabilise the country.But two weeks later violence escalated in Jufra and Sabha after dozens of fighters loyal to the LNA were killed last month in a raid on Brak Al-Shati air base near Sabha city.

Brigades aligned with the GNA and the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a force that includes Islamists and other fighters who have fled the LNA's advances since last year in the eastern city of Benghazi, have since retreated from the area.Mohamed al-Afirs, spokesman for the LNA's 12th Brigade, said his men had found Jufra base deserted when they entered late in the morning. Local forces aligned with the LNA had clashed with the BDB on Friday, but the BDB then withdrew towards Misrata, LNA officials said.The latest LNA advances came after heavy LNA air strikes on Jufra. Egypt has also carried out air strikes in Jufra, as well as in the far eastern city of Derna, which it said targeted militants linked to an attack on Coptic Christians in the southern Egyptian province of Minya. However, analysts say the strikes appear partly designed to help Haftar, a close ally of Egypt. (Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date: Jun 03, 2017 22:04 PM

Also Watch

Social Media Star: Abhishek Bachchan, Varun Grover reveal how they handle selfies, trolls and broccoli
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 It's a Wrap: Soorma star Diljit Dosanjh and Hockey legend Sandeep Singh in conversation with Parul Sharma
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 Watch: Dalit man in Uttar Pradesh defies decades of prejudice by taking out baraat in Thakur-dominated Nizampur village
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 India's water crisis: After govt apathy, Odisha farmer carves out 3-km canal from hills to tackle scarcity in village
  • Sunday, July 15, 2018 Maurizio Sarri, named as new Chelsea manager, is owner Roman Abramovich's latest gamble in quest for 'perfect football'

Also See