CAIRO (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, on Thursday declared victory against rivals including local fighters and Islamists in the city of Derna, the last bastion of opposition to Haftar in the east of the country.
"Thanks be to God, the armed forces control the entire city of Derna," said a statement on Facebook.
The city is the last in eastern Libya to elude their control, but after encircling the city for around two years, Brigades from Haftar's Libyan National Army launched a ground offensive last month.
In a speech broadcast on Libyan television, Haftar, dressed in military uniform, congratulated his supporters for what he said was a victory against "terrorists".
"Today, the banner of terrorism is lowered by your victories, to be replaced by the banner of peace and tranquility despite the terrorists and those who support them," Haftar said.
Seizing Derna city completes the takeover of Libya's east by Haftar, who built up his Libyan National Army (LNA) during three-year campaign for Benghazi, Libya's second city.
But the Derna fighting could also undercut U.N.-led efforts to stabilise Libya by reconciling eastern-based factions aligned with Haftar and rival groups located in the country's more populous west.
The United Nations has warned of the devastating impact of the LNA encirclement and recent fighting on Derna's 125,000 residents.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty, writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by Andrew Roche)
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Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 04:05:34 IST