By Ayman Amzein and Maha Suleiman.
Benghazi, 23 February 2016:
It is being reported that the army has finally overrun terrorist positions near . . .[restrict]Benghazi’s port. If correct, the capture of Sabri and nearby Suq Al-Hout, which have defied repeated army attacks over the last year, means that the militants have been cleared out completely of the downtown area.
In the last 48 hours Buatni, Hawari and Leithi have all been taken by the army, leaving IS and Ansar Al-Sharia forces in control of three south-western areas, Gwarsha. Garayunis and Gamhouda.
The reports of the fall of Sabri and Suq Al-Hout were broadcast early this afternoon on Libya TV. There has not yet been any confirmation from the army and Ansar militants in Sabri have reportedly still been resisting, apparently as they try to evacuate in boats from the beach.
Many city roads still have roadblocks, in part to stop ousted residents returning to their homes before checks for booby traps have been completed.
Around midday there was a series of loud explosions from Sabri but it was not possible to reach the area.
This newspaper has been told that the army flew in soldiers from Zintan to reinforce the “Blood of the Martyrs” operation. The Zintanis reportedly landed at Benina airbase. Further forces have also arrived in the city from Tobruk by road.
There is still a sense of disbelief in Benghazi at the extent of the army’s gains since the launch of its operation on Saturday. Among the key terrorist positions to have fallen has been the Rafallah Saiti camp in Hawari, which was the IS operations centre. Soldiers freed a currently unknown number of prisoners who had been held there for many months. It is being reported that there were many dead IS fighters in the camp.
Yesterday the army also overran the IS operations room in Buatni in camp 319, the former base of Saiqa Special Forces from which they were routed in 2014.
The warm sunny day in the city is adding to the mood of euphoria with motorists driving around, honking horns and waving flags. It would appear that Leithi has been cleared of snipers, which had been a concern yesterday. The Leithi highway, closed for months has now been reopened. [/restrict]