Africa

Libyan Islamists lose Benghazi district to Haftar's forces

Ganfouda district of Benghazi Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The district has been under siege for months

Islamist fighters in Libya have lost one of their last remaining strongholds in the country's second city.

Forces loyal to the military leader, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, said they had driven local militias out of the Ganfouda district of Benghazi.

The area had been under siege for months and saw some of the worst fighting over control of the city.

Some fighters were affiliated to the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda.

The besieged district, nine miles west of the city centre, has been largely cut off from the rest of Benghazi in blockades set up by Field Marshal Haftar's forces.

His forces are not being recognised by Libya's UN-backed government.

The spokesman for Field Marshal Haftar's forces - known as the Libyan National Army - said they had freed the neighbourhood, but some militants had fled to a nearby area known as the "12 blocks".

'High cost'

The BBC's North Africa correspondent, Rana Jawad, said if it holds, the fall of Ganfouda district would be considered "a significant gain" for the forces, but locals had been hit hard.

"More than two years of fighting in Libya's second largest city has come at a high cost," she said.

"It has been deadly and it has internally displaced thousands of people."

Residents told the BBC that Islamist militias still control some parts of central Benghazi, though there have been no clashes there recently.

String of setbacks

Libya's unrest since the 2011 ousting of Muammar Gaddafi saw extremist organisations, including the Islamic State group, gain a foothold in the country.

Field Marshal Haftar's forces and rival fighters loyal to the UN-backed Tripoli-based government inflicted a string of setbacks on the jihadists.

But the jihadists still control the central Benghazi districts of al-Saberi and Souq al-Hout, according to Field Marshal Haftar's forces.

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