BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan special forces said on Monday they had retaken the main military base in Benghazi from Islamist fighters that they have been battling since October, part of a wider struggle four years after the ousting of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.
Special forces commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters by telephone that his troops had seized the army camp, on a road to the airport outside Libya’s second biggest city, as well as nearby offices belonging to state cellphone operator al-Madar.
A video posted on social media websites appeared to show Bukhamada at the camp’s gate.
Backed by troops led by general Khalifa Haftar, special forces launched their offensive against Islamists in the city in mid-October aiming to retake the city seized by Islamists last summer. They have regained control of central parts of the city, the airport and several military camps.
But there was no end to heavy fighting near Benghazi’s port, residents said. The port, the main gateway for food imports, has had to close.
Army forces in eastern Libya, including Benghazi, are loyal to the internationally recognised prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, who had to flee the capital Tripoli in August after a rival faction seized it.
The new Tripoli rulers have reinstated the old parliament, which set up its own administration and appointed a chief of staff commanding forces also calling themselves the Libyan army.
Libya has failed to build up a national army and efficient state institutions since the end of Gaddafi’s one-man rule, and the country is now effectively controlled by former rebel brigades.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Robin Pomeroy