Libya GNA forces building on military momentum

Libyan forces aligned with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) said they had advanced on Saturday on Tarhouna, a key support base for militias of Khalifa Haftar

The advance comes days after forces loyal to the Tripoli-based GNA had pushed back Haftar’s militias along the coast west of the capital, marking a possible turning point in their attempt to fend off a year-long offensive by Haftar’s militias.

Tarhouna, about 65 km (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Tripoli, has been a crucial asset for Haftar, providing local manpower for a campaign that has leaned heavily on air support supplied by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russian military contractors.

One witness from Tarhouna said residents had heard loud blasts from Saturday morning, followed by the sound of intensive clashes in an outlying area of the town that continued for up to six hours.

The capital has seen heavy bombardment in recent days, and shelling continued on Saturday, wounding at least 10 civilians, local medics said.

The GNA has also been trying to capture al-Watiya airbase, about 125 km (80 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

GNA downs UAE drone Sunday

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) announced on Sunday that it had downed a United Arab Emirates unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the north of the country, according to Anadolu Agency.

“Our forces successfully shot down an Emirati drone south of Misrata city,” said Mohammed Kanunu, the spokesman for the GNA-led Burkan Al-Ghadab Operation (Volcano of Rage).

“It was a Chinese-made drone equipped with guided missiles,” Kanunu added.

Abu Dhabi, which is one of the main backers of warlord Khalifa Haftar, has yet to comment on the incident.

This comes a day after GNA’s forces launched a military operation to re-capture Tarhuna, a town of strategic value for Haftar and his last major stronghold in the area surrounding Tripoli.

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

Libya is struggling to prepare for the expected spread of the new coronavirus, and the GNA on Friday imposed a 24-hour curfew in western regions it controls for 10 days. Libya has confirmed 49 cases, including one death.

Haftar’s militias are supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates against the Government of National Accord which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Libya slid into turmoil after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled former ruler Muammar Gaddafi.