Libya’s Benghazi on the verge of collapse

Country has had rival regimes since 2014.

Wednesday February 24 2016

Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government celebrate as they come close to seizing the centre of the eastern coastal city on February 23, 2016, after a string of gains against Islamist militias including the Islamic State group. PHOTO | AFP

Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government celebrate as they come close to seizing the centre of the eastern coastal city on February 23, 2016, after a string of gains against Islamist militias including the Islamic State group. PHOTO | AFP 

By AFP
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BENGHAZI, Tuesday

Fighters loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government said on Tuesday they were close to seizing the centre of second city Benghazi after gains against Islamist militias including the Islamic State group.

“We entered most of the sectors controlled by terrorist groups in Lithi” in central Benghazi, a military source told AFP.

The press office of Libya’s General Command, which supports the recognised administration, said it would announce the liberation of Lithi, a bastion of Islamist militias including IS, “imminently”.

Libya has had rival administrations since the summer of 2014 when the recognised government fled Tripoli after a militia alliance including Islamists overran the capital. Fighting has flared periodically in Benghazi as security forces try to wrest neighbourhoods from armed groups including IS and Ansar al-Sharia, which is close to Al-Qaeda.

At least 19 pro-government troops were killed over the weekend in clashes that saw loyalists seize Al-Marayseh port in western Benghazi and Al-Hawari hospital in the south.

Medical sources in Benghazi said Tuesday that more than 20 loyalist fighters had died in the operation to retake the city.

Earlier this month the military announced that one of its fighter jets had been shot down as it carried out air strikes on opposition positions in the coastal city.

Chaos engulfing Libya since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 has fostered the rise of IS which has based itself in the former dictator’s hometown of Sirte in eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, Libya’s internationally recognised parliament was unable to hold a vote of confidence in the UN-backed unity government today because it lacked a quorum.

CHAMBER ADJOURNED

“The required quorum (89 members of parliament) was not reached, so the president of the chamber adjourned the session,” MP Mohamed al-Abbani told AFP. Another parliamentarian, Ali Al-Qaidi, confirmed that “the necessary quorum was not reached, and the session for the vote was adjourned until next week”.

Mr Qaidi said there were differences between MPs on the proposed new government’s programme.

Another member, Khalifa al-Daghari, spoke of disagreements over the order of the day, with some MPs also wanting to vote on the political agreement reached in December in Morocco on the 2011 constitution before holding the vote of confidence.
The United Nations has been pushing both sides to back a unity government.

A Presidential Council, born of an agreement in December under UN auspices between representatives of the rival parliaments, last week put forward a unity government of 18 members.

A previous cabinet line-up of 32 ministers proposed by premier-designate Fayez al-Sarraj was rejected by the Tobruk parliament as being too large.

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