Armed forces in Libya loyal to opposition leader Khalifa Haftar claim to have taken control of Sirte, a key coastal city, as conflict continues to rage in the country.
The capture of Sirte marks an important gain to Haftar, who has been staging a military offensive on the capital, Tripoli since April. Tripoli is home to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
Sirte has been controlled by forces affiliated with GNA since the expulsion of the Islamic State militants in 2016.
A local resident of Sirte had told Reuters that they had spotted troops belonging to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and also added that “they control large parts of the city now". "We also hear gunfire,” the resident added.
An LNA spokesman, Ahmed al-Mismari had described it as a “sudden, swift operation” and said “the commander-in-chief decided on a well-planned pre-emptive strike and within less than three hours we were in the heart of Sirte”. According to UN experts and diplomats, Haftar’s LNA has military support from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt.
Meanwhile, Turkey is preparing to deploy more troops to assist Libya’s GNA in Tripoli, and has already supplied the GNA with armoured vehicles, though they currently claim to have only a “training and advisory” role.