Militias loyal to General Khalifa Hafter in Libya have suffered heavy losses in the ongoing battle for the capital, Tripoli.
At least 53 fighters were killed last Friday in Al-Washka to the west of Sirte, including senior officers. Another 16 were killed in southern Tripoli and eastern Rashfana, while 12 others fell in a raid at Al-Wattia Air Base to the west of the capital.
The casualties arose after Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) fought back against Haftar’s forces which have broken the ceasefire repeatedly, killing many civilians in Tripoli.
The GNA used drones supplied by Turkey to bomb the militias while ground troops advanced. Among the dead are Major General Ali Sidi, and Commander Saber Al-Mutahar.
GNA forces destroyed or captured armoured vehicles and equipment from the rebel troops. Local sources also report that prisoners were taken by the GNA at Al-Wattia before the army withdrew under fire from foreign Arab air forces which back Haftar.
It is a week since Haftar’s militias suffered another setback when GNA forces attacked Al-Wattia Air Base and captured 27 militia members, including pilots and technicians.
The stated intention was to paralyse the base rather than control it. Senior officers loyal to Haftar were killed, including Ahmad and Muhammad Al-Haddad Al-Rajbani; other victims have not been identified.
Medical and military sources among the Haftar forces involved in the fighting have claim that only 70 mercenaries and militia fighters have been killed up to now.
Casualties were taken to the Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte, where medical facilities were overwhelmed treating the wounded soldiers and fighters from the Sudanese Janjaweed militias supporting Haftar.
The mercenaries’ wages are apparently being paid by an unnamed Gulf State.
Haftar commander killed in clashes with GNA forces
A commander in the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to General Khalifa Haftar was killed yesterday along with one of his aides in clashes with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) forces in Al-Washka, Sputnik has reported.
They were named by a military source as LNA commander Salem Driaq and Gaddafi Al-Sadai. Driaq was the commander of the Sirte operations room.
The LNA has been attacking Tripoli for nearly a year, hoping to capture the capital where the internationally-recognised GNA is based.
The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia have been supporting Haftar’s forces, while Turkey and allied Syrian fighters are backing the GNA.
Diplomacy has foundered, with the latest round of talks in Geneva making no progress towards a political solution last month. Moreover, the UN envoy to Libya resigned for health reasons.
Before he quit, Ghassan Salame warned that the arms embargo on Libya was being violated routinely, with foreign weaponry and fighters arriving in the country on both sides.
Last Thursday, the European Union said that it would launch a new naval and air mission to stop further breaches of the embargo.
Huge explosions then shattered Tripoli from midnight onwards, with artillery fire echoing around the city on Friday morning, said local residents.
Fierce clashes were reported in the west of Libya, between Tripoli and the Tunisian border, in the capital’s southern suburbs, and in the frontline region between Sirte and Misrata to the east of Tripoli.
An LNA military source said fighting had resumed at dawn on Friday to the west of Sirte, a port city in central Libya captured in January. The media office for pro-GNA forces did not comment.
“The UN is alarmed that hostilities have continued in and around Tripoli despite the announced humanitarian pause,” the international organisation said on Friday.