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Haftar forces launch airstrike on Tripoli as Libyan, as government announces counter-offensive Open in fullscreen

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Haftar forces launch airstrike on Tripoli as Libyan, as government announces counter-offensive

Loyalist forces announced a "counteroffensive" on Sunday to defend Tripoli [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 April, 2019

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General Khalifa Haftar's forces have announced their first airstrike on a suburb of Libya's capital as government forces rush to launch a counteroffensive to defend Tripoli.

Forces loyal to rogue Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar on Sunday announced their first airstrike on a suburb of Tripoli, where troops loyal to the country's internationally-recognised government had announced a "counter offensive" to protect the loyalist stronghold.

The announcement of the air raid was made on the Facebook page of the "media office" of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) as fighting raged around 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Tripoli.

An air strike on the southern part of Tripoli was confirmed by a witness who spoke to Reuters.

Forces loyal to Haftar have pressed on with their assault since Thursday despite international calls to halt hostilities.

In the capital, the spokesman for forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, said that counteroffensive "Volcano of Anger" was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces".

The UN has called for an "urgent" two-hour truce in the southern suburbs of Tripoli to evacuate wounded and civilians amid the escalating violence.

Libya has struggled to counter unrest since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, leaving dozens of militia to fill the void and ally with either the GNA or a rival administration in the east backed by Haftar.

GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj on Saturday accused Haftar of betraying him and warned of a "war without a winner".

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