Jihadists battle Libya forces in 'liberated' Benghazi

Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) –


Jihadists are still battling Libyan forces in Benghazi days after strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled army declared victory in the eastern city, his forces said Sunday.

Colonel Miloud Zwei, spokesman for Haftar's Libyan National Army, said the fighting persisted in the district of Soug al-Jarid, located between the central neighbourhoods of Soug al-Hout and Al-Sabri, the jihadists' last strongholds.

Zwei said 20 LNA soldiers have been killed by "terrorists" who had been hiding in houses since Haftar on Wednesday announced the "total liberation" of Benghazi.

Three others were killed Sunday in mine blasts as soldiers carried out search operations in Al-Sabri and Soug al-Hout, he added.

Zwei said LNA forces had killed several jihadists and arrested 17 since Wednesday.

Field Marshal Haftar declared war on jihadists in Benghazi three years after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Code-named Operation Dignity, the offensive targeted several jihadists groups which had overrun Benghazi after the uprising.

These include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias among them suspected members of the Islamic state group and the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia.

On Sunday, he was in the United Arab Emirates for talks with top UAE leaders on military cooperation, state media in Abu Dhabi reported.

Haftar does not recognise the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in the capital Tripoli, instead backing an alternate government set up in the country's east.

After he announced that jihadist forces were driven from Benghazi, thousands of residents took to the streets of Libya's second city to celebrate.

But on Sunday the LNA urged residents to avoid entering the "liberated areas" of the city, where they said mines were still being cleared.