BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libyan troops loyal to the internationally-backed government have made major advances against Islamic extremists, clearing a strategic port and a main hospital in the eastern city of Benghazi, the army spokesman said Monday.
Khalifa al-Obeidi told The Associated Press that the port of Mraissa had served as the largest "supply line for the terrorists" but is now held by forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. He said the troops were supported by fighters defending their own neighborhoods, and that at least 30 rival militants were killed in the fighting.
Addressing his forces from the Benghazi operation room, Hifter dubbed the operation "Martyrs' Blood" and said "victory is near."
Another military official said the breakthrough came after the troops received weapons and ammunition from Egypt, a strong supporter of Hifter over the past two years. Egyptian warplanes struck IS positions in the eastern city of Darna last year after the extremists beheaded several captured Egyptian Christians.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Benghazi is Libya's second largest city and was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi. It has endured more than two years of heavy battles between Hifter's forces and a coalition of militias, including Islamic State loyalists.
Libya is currently split between an Islamist-backed government supported by an array of militias that is based in the capital, Tripoli, and an internationally recognized government that convenes in the far east of the vast, oil-rich country. The U.N. has been trying for months to get the two sides to agree on a unity government that can stabilize the country and combat a powerful local Islamic State affiliate.