By Maha Suleiman.
Benghazi, 14 April 2016:
A leading terrorist was captured today in Benghazi while there is report that armed forces commander-in-chief . . .[restrict]Khalifa Hafter is about to announce that the city will been entirely in government hands “within a week”.
If such a pledge is indeed given, it will be only the latest is a series of victory promises that Hafter has made in the last 18 months.
In a coup for the authorities, the police today arrested the commander of the militants’ 17 February Brigade. Ahmed Idris Al-Aghili was detained in a butcher’s shop in Bu Dazira, near the eastern entrance to the city.
The fierce and deadly fighting that erupted today in several areas of western Benghazi appeared to demonstrate that the army is trying to restore the momentum of its successful attacks last month.
At least five soldiers died and six were injured, two of them seriously in fighting around the Hawari cement factory. A top military source told the Libya Herald that the casualties had been caused by mines as troops sought to enter the plant.
In the course of the battle, fuel storage tanks close to the factory were set on fire and a huge pall of smoke rose above the district. Though the army says it has made progress in Hawari, it does not seem that the much fought-over cement factory is completely in its hands.
It is however being reported that at least 20 IS fighters were killed in the initial explosion of the fuel tanks, though a source added that it was hard to give a precise figure for enemy casualties since IS and Anaar al-Sharia fighters always tried to recover the bodies of their dead..
Elsewhere in the city, there was fighting in Gwarsha, Garyounis, Suq Al-Hout and Sabri. The last two districts were also attacked from the sea by navy patrol craft. This may have been in response to yesterday’s successful mortar attack on the naval dock. Ansar Al-Sharia this morning claimed that it had fired the pattern of mortar shells that ignited an ammunition dump and is thought to have hit the naval patrol vessel Janzour. An unnamed special forces officer is said to have lost a hand in the attack, which also hit fishing boats tied up at the fishing dock.
There was also a series of overnight airstrikes by both fixed wing aircraft and attack helicopters. This newspaper has been told that pilots are now using new night-vision technology while troops have received new guns and ammunition. The source declined to say from where this new equipment had come.
In what is seen as an attempt to finally end the battle for Sabri, the long-besieged IS enclave near the port, Hafter has appointed a new district commander. The job has gone to Colonel Ali Al-Zirghani who led the successful ouster of the terrorists from Leithi last month. [/restrict]