By Libya Herald reporter.
Malta, 7 February 2015:
A former United States State Department official has said that the Karama/House of Representatives (HoR) army . . .[restrict]are now engaged in a ”final” offensive to completely ”clear” Benghazi of terrorists. He predicted that the army’s next move could be ”confronting IS militants in Derna”.
Wayne White, a scholar with the Middle East Institute and former deputy director of the State Department’s Middle East intelligence office, told Newsweek yesterday that the Karama/ HoR ‘‘army now controls around 90 percent of Benghazi, and late last year it started taking back bases, the national bank, the airport and other key real estate, including neighborhoods. The port was the only place of value left in the group’s hands’’.
“It’s clear now that not only do [the army’s forces] hold the vast bulk of the city, but they’re now engaged in what I think they hope will be almost a final offensive to clear it completely of Ansar al-Sharia,” said White. Fighting has been intense and bitter, he added.
With ISIS-affiliated groups circulating throughout Libya, White predicted the army’s next move could be confronting a “nasty” cell of ISIS militants in the port city of Derna, which set up a training camp there in December. Taking back total control of Benghazi, however, was a priority, he added.
It will be recalled that on Friday, an officer at the port of Benghazi had confirmed to Libya Herald, on condition of anonymity, that the port area was completely in the army’s hands following heavy fighting on Thursday. The army had also claimed to have taken control of part of the neighbouring Suq Al-Hout district.
There were also fierce clashes in nearby Sabri and in Laithi as the army had pushed in to try and dislodge Ansar Al-Sharia and its allies, with heavy weaponry including tanks and missiles being used.
However, the situation on the ground is still not fully clear. Army sources had initially said Thursday that it had also taken the neighbouring Courthouse area, famous as the city’s rallying point during the 2011 Revolution but which in recent weeks has been under Ansar control. However, later on the source had said that the army had subsequently withdrawn “as a precaution”.
This is also not the first time that the army had claimed to have taken the Suq Al-Hout area, it must be noted. [/restrict]