Khalifa Haftar’s east Libyan forces have claimed capture of the final holdout of opposing militants in the southwest of Benghazi, ending weeks of resistance by the fighters who were camped in a group of tower blocks.
Milad al-Zwai, spokesman for the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said on Saturday the siege at the “12 blocks” ended when rival fighters tried to escape at dawn.
He said 23 of them had been killed and six arrested while five LNA troops were killed and six wounded.
Dozens of family members had also been in the besieged buildings and an unknown number were detained by the LNA.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the LNA’s opponents or their families had escaped.
A news agency run close to a parallel government in eastern Libya said LNA forces had “intensified their raids against the last bastions of the jihadist groups in Benghazi, some of whom tried to flee during the night”.
The LNA said it had lost a MiG-21 fighter jet over the Benghazi district of Sabri on Saturday, though the pilot had ejected.
Benghazi, which fell to hardline groups in 2014, has been the scene of deadly fighting between them and forces loyal to Haftar, who controls much of eastern Libya in defiance of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.
Khalifah Haftar a former Gaddafi ally, CIA asset, and Libyan military officer, returned to the country during the 2011 revolt against ousted leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Backed by Russia, Egypt and the UAE, he formed his wn militia which he named the Libyan National Army. In 2014 he began an operation, Operation Dignity, to destroy Islamist-leaning militias, sparking a second civil war.
Haftar has rejected a UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli that was meant to reunite the country after it split between eastern and western based governments and military factions in 2014