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Pro-government forces claim advance south of Libya capital

Forces loyal to Libya’s unity government said Wednesday they had made territorial gains south of Tripoli against commander Khalifa Haftar, whose fighters are trying to take the capital.

“Our forces have won ground… and have successfully retaken important positions, including the air force academy,” said Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

He said the gains were made in Esbea sector, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital.

Haftar’s forces said in a Facebook statement that they had repulsed a GNA attack, inflicting “significant losses”, without giving further details.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to take Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in early April.

But counter attacks by forces loyal to the unity government led quickly to a stalemate in the southern outskirts.

Mejii said that pro-GNA forces killed 20 of Haftar’s fighters and wounded dozens of others on Wednesday.

He said seven pro-GNA troops were killed.

A two-day ceasefire, proposed by the UN during the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, was the first since Haftar’s offensive began, however fighting resumed the Monday after.

The fighting has displaced some 120,000 people since April, according to the World Health Organization.

An armed uprising in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. In the aftermath of his fall, rival militias competed for power and in 2014, Haftar plunged the country into civil war when he launched ‘Operation Dignity’ Benghazi.

As a result, a weak UN supported administration in Tripoli oversees the country’s west while a rival government controls the east. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups as well as foreign governments.

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