BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Eastern Libyan forces on Thursday expelled Islamist fighters from one of their last strongholds in the country’s second-largest city of Benghazi, military officials said.
The battle for Benghazi between the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar and an array of Islamist militants and other fighters has been part of a broader conflict since Libya slipped into turmoil following the 2011 fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Several Islamists and one soldier were killed when special forces moved into the Khreibish district, one of the remaining pockets of resistance after Haftar declared victory in the battle for in Benghazi in July. Ten soldiers were wounded.
Commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters on Thursday evening his special forces controlled almost the entire district after a day of heavy fighting.
“Tonight will be the last night for Daesh in Khreibish,” he said, using a derogatory name for Islamic State.
Haftar launched his “Operation Dignity” campaign in May 2014, slowly gaining the upper hand against Islamist militants and former rebels who fought Gaddafi in the 2011 uprising.
Haftar is aligned with a government and parliament in eastern Libya. He has rejected a U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, as he has gradually strengthened his position on the ground.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Toby Chopra