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Haftar forces capture strategic Libya airbase after 'secret deals' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Haftar forces capture strategic Libya airbase after 'secret deals'

The forces captured the territories after secret deals with tribes in the area [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2017

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Libya's General Khalifa Haftar captured new territories in the east of the country on Saturday evening, including a strategic airbase, after secret tribal deals, sources told The New Arab.

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Forces loyal to east Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said they had taken an air base in the south on Saturday, boosting their presence in the vast Libyan desert.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army seized al-Jufra base 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tripoli, LNA spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said.

The base had been occupied by the Benghazi Defence Brigades coalition, a rival to Haftar's forces that includes Islamists driven out of Libya's second city.

Abidi said the LNA also took the nearby towns of Houn and Soukna where they found ammunition depots and vehicles, however there was no immediate information about casualties.

Military sources told The New Arab that "the region fell into the hands of Haftar on Saturday after secret dealings between tribal leaders in the region and Haftar's allies".

The sources said that "tribal gunmen from Wadan and Sokna engaged with armed groups loyal to the government of reconciliation, and its demand to withdraw from the region," pointing out that "tribal negotiators from the region pledged to the leaders of armed groups to protect the region."

"The area was handed over to the forces of Haftar without a fight," they added.

Meanwhile, pro-Haftar activists on social media broadcast pictures showing the entry of armed vehicles and vehicles carrying the Haftar Brigade logo to suggest they took control of the area as a result of fighting.

Haftar's forces now control all the major cities and military bases in the desert south of the North African country.

On May 25, they seized the Tamenhant base near Sebha after driving out a militia loyal to the internationally recognised administration, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

The LNA had vowed to avenge an attack on its Brak al-Shati air base northeast of Tamenhant, in which 141 people including civilians were killed.

The GNA condemned that deadly assault, said it had not ordered it and announced an inquiry.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country.

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