Haftar launches air strikes in west Benghazi

Barrage targets eastern city despite reports of truce, denied by renegade general's spokesman, between rival sides.

    Haftar launches air strikes in west Benghazi
    Haftar has waged an offensive against fighters he calls 'terrorists' in Libya's east [Reuters]

    Forces loyal to a former Libyan General have launched air strikes against three areas of the northern city of Benghazi, shortly after reports of a ceasefire deal between the renegade commander and a government crisis committee.

    General Khalifa Haftar's men also shelled residential areas outside Benghazi where they say armed groups are based. 

    Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Tripoli, said that the air strikes lasted for at least thirty minutes.

    A source close to the armed group Ansar al-Sharia told Al Jazeera that the group had given Haftar supporters 72 hours, ending Tuesday, to leave the Benina area of Benghazi, close to the airport.

    Earlier, sources in the Government Crisis Managing Committee, which includes tribal elders, the minister of justice and various brigades in Benghazi, told Al Jazeera that a truce deal had been reached with Haftar, a claim denied by Mohamed Hejazi, Haftar's spokesperson.

    According to the Reuters news agency, Haftar has agreed to observe a ceasefire during national elections scheduled for June 25.

    Campaign against armed groups

    Haftar is campaigning to rid Libya of fighters that he says the federal government in Tripoli has failed to control. He has waged an offensive against what he calls "terrorists" and "extremists" in the east of the country for the last three weeks.

    His forces have used jets and helicopters to target suspected groups.

    Ansar al-Sharia, which has been dominant in Bengazhi, gained support following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the country's former leader, in 2011.

    The group is thought to be behind the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four people including the US ambassador.

    Libya remains in turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war which removed Gaddafi, with various factions locked in conflict. 

    Unrest has left Libya with few functioning institutions and no real national army to impose authority on the competing militias and brigades of former rebels who have become powerbrokers.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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