Benghazi

Al-Qaeda-linked rebels 'defeated in Benghazi district'

Forces loyal to renegade Libyan general Haftar claim they have liberated Qanfouda, a stronghold of Ansar al-Sharia.

Benghazi was the birthplace of a 2011 armed revolt that toppled Libya's Moammar Gaddafi [AP File]

Forces loyal to Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar have said that they had taken one of the last remaining strongholds of an al-Qaeda-linked group in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Haftar's self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA) "liberated all of Qanfouda", an area 15km west of the centre of Benghazi, spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

Two other LNA officials confirmed to AFP news agency that Qanfouda, the scene of fierce fighting since June against Ansar al-Sharia, had fallen.

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Jamal al-Zahawi, an LNA commander, told broadcaster Libya Channel that his forces have freed more than 60 people from captivity, following the fighting. 

No casualty numbers were provided in the latest fighting.

Another official, however, said there were still pockets of resistance from Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in the districts of Al-Saberi and Souq al-Hout.

Haftar supports a Tobruk-based rival administration to  the Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli [Reuters]

Regaining Qanfouda is part of a military campaign launched in mid-2014 under Haftar, who repeatedly said his aim is "to drive radical Islamists" from Benghazi.

Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, was the birthplace of the 2011 armed revolt that toppled longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

But Libya descended into chaos after Gaddafi fell, with several armed groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, gaining a foothold in the north African country.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord based in the capital, Tripoli, has failed to assert its authority over the country, while a rival group backed by Haftar runs a separate administration from the eastern city of Tobruk.

Source: News agencies