Strongman of Libya’s eastern part KhalifA Haftar and his army Thursday announced victory over ‘terrorists’ in the town of Derna after nearly two months of a major offensive and a two-year blockade that has alarmed the UN.
“We proudly announce the liberation of Derna, a city dear to all Libyans,” Haftar said in a speech as he stood on a podium.
“Today, the banner of terrorism is lowered by your victories, to be replaced by the banner of peace and tranquillity despite the terrorists and those who support them.”
Derna, a town about 125,000 km west of Libya’s border with Egypt, with a population of nearly 150,000 people had been the last eastern town out of the control of Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The town was controlled by the so-called Derna Protection Force (DPF) viewed by the eastern army commander as an alliance of terror groups including al Qaeda.
The eastern town, which was centre of the 2011 opposition against Muammar Gaddafi, was also the entry point in Libya of the Islamic State group (ISIS), in 2014.
Haftar’s forces launched last month a major foray into Derna using air power and heavy artillery that overwhelmed the enemy.
Plans to take over Derna started two years ago after Haftar’s fighters besieged the town cutting off supply of basic amenities.
The blockade irked the United Nations, which protested to the LNA about the humanitarian crisis that ensued.
The takeover of the eastern town is the second victory for Haftar in a matter of few days after he took full control of the country’s critical oil terminals. The LNA early this week announced it was handing the control of all oil ports in the east to the unrecognized administration in Beida.
The United Nations Chief Wednesday urged the Libyan eastern authorities to surrender the country’s oil installations to Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) operating under the wig of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
The United States, France, Britain and Italy also issued a joint statement expressing their opposition to eastern authorities’ seizure of the oil facilities.