Libya's UN-recognised govt claims full control of Tripoli, suburbs
Forces allied with the U.N.-supported government in Libya said Thursday they have regained control of all of Tripoli's entrance and exit points after taking back the airport, and claimed that the siege by rival troops trying to capture the capital for over a year has effectively ended.
Libya's UN-recognised government said Thursday it was back in full control of Tripoli and its suburbs, capping a string of victories against eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar and vowing to take the whole country.
"Our heroic forces have full control of Greater Tripoli right up to the city limits," Mohamad Gnounou, spokesman for the forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), said in a Facebook post.
The announcement came after GNA forces retook the Tripoli International Airport on Wednesday, after fierce battles more than a year after losing it as Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital.
The country's main civilian airport, in Tripoli's southern outskirts, had been disused since 2014 when it was heavily damaged in fighting between rival militias.
But it was a key strategic prize on a major highway into the capital.
The unity government's deputy defence minister Salah Namrush said Thursday that GNA forces "are continuing their advance, chasing the terrorist militias from the walls of Tripoli."
"Some of their commanders are fleeing towards Bani Walid airport," some 170 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of the capital, he added on Facebook.
A rapid early advance stalled on the edges of Tripoli in fighting that has killed hundreds and forced around 200,000 people to flee.
But GNA forces with heavy Turkish backing have made a string of gains from Haftar's forces in recent months.
Footage of GNA troops manning positions held until recently by Haftar's fighters was widely circulated on Libyan television channels and social media.
GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj, speaking after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Thursday, insisted that his government would impose its control over the whole of Libya.
"Our fight continues and we are determined to defeat the enemy, impose state control on the whole of the homeland and destroy all those who jeopardise the construction of a civil, democratic and modern state," Sarraj said.