Libya crisis: Clashes erupt south of capital Tripoli

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A Libyan fighter loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) fires a truck-mounted gun during clashesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Libya's UN-backed government says it has launched a counter-offensive against Gen Khalifa Haftar's forces.

Heavy fighting has erupted south of Tripoli after Libya's UN-backed government announced a counter-offensive against insurgent forces.

It comes after days of limited advances by either side, in clashes which have killed 220 people.

Soldiers loyal to Gen Khalifa Haftar launched an attack earlier this month with the aim of taking Tripoli.

Details of progress by both sides was not immediately clear.

Mr Serra's Government of National Accord says it has carried out seven air strikes on areas held by Gen Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

The group has been advancing on the city from multiple directions, and says it has taken Tripoli's international airport.

The UN-backed government says it has launched a counter-offensive against Gen Haftar's forces.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Soldiers loyal to the Tripoli government have been defending the capital since Gen Haftar began an assault on 4 April

Gen Haftar, a former army officer, was appointed chief of the LNA in 2015 under an earlier, internationally recognised government based in Tobruk..

He has support from Egypt, Russia and the UAE.

The White House says President Trump has spoken to Gen Haftar, suggesting the US may also endorse a new government under his command.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Gen Haftar is fighting to unseat the UN-backed government

Both America and Russia have refused to support a UK-drafted UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

An LNA spokesperson told AFP news agency: "We have won the political battle and we have convinced the world that the armed forces are fighting terrorism."

Gen Haftar has support from several foreign powers, who see him as a potentially stabilising force in the chaos of post-revolution Libya, BBC Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher reports.

Some Libyans feel the same way, but others see him as just another warlord bent on winning power by force, our editor.

Libya has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.