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World

AFP
June 13, 2018

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Libya strongman advances in battle to take eastern city

BENGHAZI, Libya: Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said on Tuesday they are advancing rapidly on the eastern city of Derna, despite troops being hit by suicide attacks.

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Haftar has vowed to "liberate" Derna, an Islamist stronghold that is home to more than 120,000 people and the only eastern city outside of his control. But as his self-styled Libyan National Army continued its offensive on Tuesday, two explosions were heard as suicide bombers hit forces in the southern Shiha district.

Without giving a toll for the attack, LNA spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said civilians were among the casualties as the roof of a family home collapsed. On Monday night, he said, another suicide attack killed two LNA fighters and wounded three.

The LNA was "advancing steadily to liberate a very small remaining pocket before liberating the whole of Derna," he added. Abidi said "terrorists" were "resorting to suicide attacks after they failed to tackle" the LNA conventionally.

Derna is held by a ragtag alliance of Islamist and jihadist militias, including groups close to Al-Qaeda, hostile to both Haftar and the Islamic State group. The city is located more than 1,000 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli and around 300 kilometres east of second city Benghazi.

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