Libya’s pro-government forces are making a push to retake Benghazi, parts of which have been overrun by Islamist militants. Ex-General Haftar is leading the campaign to “liberate” the city, the AFP reports:
Witnesses said tanks had launched an assault against an Islamist militia known as the “February 17 Martyrs Brigade,” while warplanes carried out raids on the group, whose headquarters is located west of the city.
At least 12 people were killed and 10 others wounded, including three soldiers, and a man and his three children, officials said.
A spokesman for Haftar’s forces said they captured the February 17 headquarters after several hours of fighting, but there was no way to independently verify the claim.
Later, the army announced it had thrown its weight behind Haftar, who launched a first, unsuccessful, campaign against the Islamists in May, dubbing it “Operation Dignity”.
Meanwhile, Egypt is on board—at least according to unnamed government officials, who claim their country is chipping in with airstrikes. After fervent denials by Egypt that the country was behind the August airstrikes in Libya, this is something of a change, though hardly a surprise. The AP reports:
Egyptian warplanes are bombing positions held by Islamist militias in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi as part of a large-scale operation to rid the city of militants who have held sway there for months, two Egyptian government officials said on Wednesday.The officials, who have firsthand knowledge of the operation, said the use of the aircraft was part of an Egyptian-led operation against the militiamen that would at a later stage involve Libyan ground troops recently trained by Egyptian forces.
That’s not all Egypt is contributing:
The officials said the operation also involves the use of an Egyptian navy vessel as a command center off the Mediterranean shore of Tobruk. Renegade Libyan general, Khalifa Hiftar, is not leading the operation, with Egypt dealing directly with a newly appointed Libyan chief of staff, who has visited Egypt several times in recent weeks.The operation was expected to last three to six months, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
After recent reports that Egypt planned to train Libya’s pro-government forces, further involvement is to be expected. Other outside parties have also picked sides in Libya; Qatar and its allies are backing one faction, while Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are backing another. If the Egyptian sources are correct that this is the beginning of an operation lasting several months, Libya’s civil war may now be moving from simmer to boil.