By Libya Herald reporters, including Maha Suleiman and Ayman Amzein.
Benghazi, 22 February 2016:
The Army’s “Blood of the Martyrs” assault on IS . . .[restrict]and Ansar Al-Sharia positions in Benghazi appears to have made further progress today in several districts, with claims of heavy terrorist losses, including the death of a local commander.
Hawari, Butani and much of Leithi has reportedly been overrun though in the last two districts, snipers are still operating. Local commanders are saying that the militants have lost more ground since the launch of the army assault than they have in the previous year. Though the key supply port of Mreisa was taken yesterday by 309 Brigade, there is still fighting not far from the town.
It is being claimed that at least 50 terrorists have been killed including Omar Nubs, whose family mve their name to Leithi’s Nubs Square which the army tried and failed to take in an attack last July. Nubs was reportedly killed in Buatni. The army is admitting to two dead and ten injured. In the first two days of the battle, at least 15 soldiers were killed by boobytraps left behind by the militants. However it appears that the gathering pace of the advance has reduced the opportunity for the retreating enemy to rig up more IEDs.
A senior source has told the Libya Herald that the army has been operating with new weapons, but declined to say what they were. One such piece of equipment shown in an army video of the fighting appears to be a UAE-made NIMR armoured personnel carrier. Both the UAE and Egypt have been pressing for the lifting of the UN arms embargo on Libya. Armed forces commander-in-chief Khalifa Hafter has long maintained that he needed better weaponry to take on the terrorists.
Troops, backed by local volunteers, appear to have consolidated their hold on Hawari hospital, including its heart and kidney clinics. It is being claimed that a tank seized by the terrorists when they overran Saiqa’s 319 camp in July 2014 was destroyed this morning in Hawari. This evening it was reported that troops have almost reached the main road between Hawari, Gwarsha and Sidi Faraj.
The Pepsi factory in Buatni, lost by the army in a militant counterattack on 4 February, has now also been recaptured by Saiqa Special Forces.
An unofficial video taken by a soldier is believed to show the Nakheel beach resort in Ganfouda, near Mreisa. A vehicle is driven down a battered road past lines of villas, one of which is then examined in detail. What is notable is the limited damage to the buildings suggesting that they were evacuated with little or no resistance.
Past abortive efforts to dislodge the terrorists in Libya’s second city have petered out after one or two days. A defence analyst asserted last year that this was largely due to poor command and control of forward troops coupled with inadequate logistical support. While all the footage posted over the last three days gives no clear indication of the extent to which frontline troops are being supported, it is clear that battlefield commanders are well-equipped with radios and appear to be leading their men from the front. Perhaps deliberately, there has been no published video of soldiers leaping out from cover and wildly firing off belts of ammunition in the vague direction of the enemy.
Army assaults today have been backed by two helicopter gunships but it does not appear that fixed wing warplanes have been used. This month two airforce MiG-23’s were shot down by enemy fire. [/restrict]