Libyan forces aligned with Tripoli government claim key air base

Forces aligned with Libya’s internationally recognized government said on Monday they had taken control of an airbase south-west of Tripoli in what could be their most significant advance for nearly a year.

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

The campaign sharply escalated a long-running conflict between factions based in eastern and western Libya and caused a surge in military intervention by foreign powers.

Forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken full control of Watiya, Osama Juweili, a top military commander, was quoted as saying by official media early on Monday.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show GNA forces driving down runways at the base unhindered. There was no immediate comment from Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

The advance comes after GNA forces pushed back against their rivals in recent weeks with increased support from Turkey, capturing towns on the coast west of Tripoli last month.[bnL5N2C12UT]

The LNA, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia, has been unable to make significant advances from the outskirts of Tripoli since early on in its campaign.

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


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