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Libyan forces aligned with Tripoli gov’t claim key air base

by ace
Libyan forces aligned with Tripoli gov't claim key air base

CAIRO (Reuters) – Forces aligned with Libya's internationally recognized government said on Monday they had taken control of an air base southwest of Tripoli, in what could be the most significant advance for nearly a year.

The Watiya air base, 125 km (80 miles) from the capital, has been an important strategic point for forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April 2019.

The campaign dramatically escalated a long-standing conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya and caused an increase in military intervention by foreign powers.

Forces aligned with the National Accord Government (GNA) have taken full control of Watiya. Osama Juweili, one of the top military commanders, was quoted in the official media on Monday.

The images posted on social media seemed to show the GNA's forces descending the base's tracks without obstacles. There were no immediate comments from Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

The move comes after GNA forces have retreated against their rivals in recent weeks with increased support from Turkey, capturing cities on the west coast of Tripoli last month.

The LNA, supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, has been unable to make significant advances around Tripoli since the start of its campaign.

The LNA lost Gharyan, its main forward base south of Tripoli, in its biggest reversal until June 2019, but continues to control Tarhouna, southeast of the capital.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean Edition)

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