Libyan jets bomb rebel bases in Benghazi

Attacks on February 17 and Ansar al-Sharia groups appear to be part of campaign by renegade general Khalifa Hafter.

Hafter claims to have more than three-quarters of Benghazi under his control [Reuters]

A Libyan jet has bombed positions held by armed rebel brigades in the eastern city of Benghazi, a senior military official has said, apparently as part of an ongoing offensive by a renegade general.

The official said the bombing on Sunday targeted a base belonging to a local armed group called February 17 and the area of Sidi Faraj, where members of the Ansar al-Sharia organisation are located.

An official from Ansar al-Sharia said no one was hurt and claimed that one of two rockets fired by the aircraft hit a car dealership.

In a separate raid, aircraft also targeted a palace that once belonged to Libya’s toppled ruling family in the western section of Benghazi, said a spokesman for forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Hafter.

The army spokesman, Mohammed Hegazi, said the palace was being used by fighters.

The aircraft apparently launched the attack on the behalf of Hafter, who has been leading a military campaign against armed rebel groups dominating Libya’s political scene.

He has vowed to crush the groups and many military units back him, a position that he stressed again in a news conference on Saturday.

“We will not stop until the people’s demands are met,” said the 70-year-old Hafter, who also called on Libya’s tribes to support him.

Hafter claims to have more than 75 percent of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, under his control.

The eastern city was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Hafter is based in Benghazi, where he has been leading an armed revolt since late last month in what is perhaps the biggest challenge yet to Libya’s weak central government and fledgling security forces since Gaddafi’s toppling.

He has dubbed his offensive “Operation Dignity”, saying it is aimed at breaking both armed rebel groups and their supporting political factions in parliament.

Backed by military jets flown by pilots who have sided with him, Hafter’s forces had frequently bombed the outskirts of Benghazi, forcing the groups to withdraw from their compounds, Hegazi said.

Source: AP