The eastern Libyan city of Benghazi is the site of an ongoing battle with wider ramifications for Libya’s future. On the one side are the anti-Islamist leader Khalifa Haftar and his would-be Libyan National Army (LNA). On the other side is an alliance of jihadist groups called the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council (BRSC, Shura meaning consultation). The battle for Benghazi, in which Haftar has the upper hand, is part of his broader campaign to control Libya and impose an anti-Islamist, anti-jihadist politics on the country.
Haftar and his rivals have been trading control over areas of the city for over two years now – and as recently as September, Al Jazeera (Arabic) was reporting gains for the BRSC.
The past few days have seen fierce fighting in Benghazi. AFP:
“We now control the district of Abu Sneib” in the southwest of the city, said a commanding officer in the army headed by Haftar, who backs the parliament in the country’s east.
“Our forces now completely surround the Qanfuda area” nearby, the same source said.
The source said 52 troops had died in fighting since January 1 in and around Benghazi.
Jihadists still control the central districts of Al-Saberi and Souq al-Hout.
Al Jazeera (Arabic) provides more details, especially about the costs of the operation for the LNA: two field commanders killed, along with several other deaths. The trigger for the latest fighting was apparently an attempt by the BRSC to advance on LNA positions in the neighborhood.
Air power is a major factor in Haftar’s advances against the BRSC, although there are reports (Arabic) that an LNA plane was shot down over eastern Benghazi by a rocket on January 15. The BRSC has claimed responsibility (Arabic). Even though Haftar has the upper hand, the BRSC’s resistance make it seem as though the LNA’s total conquest of Benghazi is still a ways off.