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Libyan army retakes key airbase from warlord's forces18 May 2020

Strategic airbase captured in 2014 by warlord Khalifa Haftar, who used it as HQ for attacks on legitimate government

Libya’s army on Monday retook Al-Watiya airbase occupied by warlord Khalifa Haftar's militias, a key airbase now back under government control after some six years under putschist forces.

The victory was announced by the media office of the government-led Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation, citing Osama al-Juwaili, the commander of Operation Peace Storm.

The move came after the Libyan army destroyed a total of three Russian-made Pantsir-type air defense systems of Haftar supplied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last 48 hours.

Al-Watiya is seen as a key airbase, second only to Mitiga Airport. It was captured in 2014 by Haftar, the leader of illegally armed forces in eastern Libya, who used it as his headquarters for attacks on legitimate government.

Following Monday’s victory, the Libyan army said it will move to liberate the city of Tarhouna, located around 140 kilometers (87 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli.

Lt. Gen. Mohammed Al-Sharif, chief of staff of the Libyan army, told Libyan Al-Ahrar TV that his forces are getting ready to liberate regions south of Tripoli from Haftar’s militias, including Tarhouna.

Haftar stepped up attacks on civilians this May, as the Libyan army recently gained an advantage and inflicted severe losses on his militants.

The government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence. It launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital.

Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya's government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political deal.


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