By Ayman Amzein.
Benghazi, 18 February 2o15:
An official in the Libya National Army’s (LNA’s) Omar Mukhtar Operations Room, which covers the Derna . . .[restrict]area, has said that military units, including tanks, arrived yesterday outside the town and were taking part in a push against Islamic State (IS) gunmen in the Fataieh area.
Fataieh, on the outskirts of Derna, has remained an IS stronghold despite it being expelled from the town last year by the local mujahideen forces.
The newly arrived forces, the official said, were targeting the area with heavy weapons and had cut the electricity supply. They were also involved in the fighting in Derna’s far eastern, coastal suburb known as “District 400” which adjoins Fataieh and where IS units are also holed up.
The officer also claimed that young fighters from the town were fighting alongside the military against IS.
The current round of fighting has been going on for the past four days, and is continuing. All other reports, however, indicate that it is between IS and the Derna mujahideen supported, again, by local youths, and that there is no LNA involvement.
The LNA has, nonetheless, been involved in intermittent bombing raids in and around Derna, mainly of IS positions but the mujahdeen have also been hit. Ten days ago, militants claimed to have shot down an LNA plane which crashed in Derna. That happened a day after the hospital, a mosque and homes were targeted in an air raid in which four people died.
The identity of the attackers have not been established.
In the current fighting, the mujahideen are reported to have captured two key institutions, the electricity and the public works buildings.
Figures on casualties remain hazy. On Monday, it was announced that two mujahideen had been killed and six injured. Today there are reports of one of the mujahideen dead and 10 wounded as against five IS militants killed. A commander named as Faraj Buzhidar is said to be among the IS dead. However, it has been impossible to verify any claims about casualties. [/restrict]