Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) says its forces have managed to shut down another air defense system and shoot down a drone belonging rebels loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar southwest of capital Tripoli.
In a statement on Sunday, the GNA’s military spokesman Colonel Mohammed Qanunu announced the news, saying the airstrikes against Haftar’s rebels were carried out at their positions in the Watiya airbase.
The official, whose statement was carried by Turkey’s state Anadolu news agency, explained that the GNA forces destroyed a Pantsir type air defense system and a Wing Loong II type combat drone, both supplied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Qanunu added that two arms depot at the airbase were also targeted by the Libyan army, a day after the troops destroyed the first UAE-supplied Pantsir system.
Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized GNA, and another one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces collectively known as the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) under Haftar’s command.
The military commander, who lived in the United States for years, is supported by the UAE, Egypt and Jordan, and launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year.
Despite fierce fighting, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective of ousting the Tripoli government and the offensive has stalled outside the city. Reports say that more than 1,000 have to date been killed in the violence.
Various international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have also failed.
Watiya is viewed as a key airbase in Libya and is second only to Mitiga Airport. It was seized by Haftar’s rebels in August 2014 and has been used the strongman’s headquarters for operation ever since.
The Sunday strikes were part of an ongoing operation to cut supplies to militias loyal to Haftar, who has intensified attacks on civilians since early this month the as the GNA forces recently gained advantage and inflicted significant losses on his LNA.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.