By Libya Herald correspondent.
Benghazi, 16 February 2017:
The war in Benghazi is almost over after 33 months of fighting. It has reportedly cost the Libyan National Army at least 4,000 dead. It is unclear how many militants and civilians have also died.
“The military operation is nearly done in Benghazi“ said LNA spokesman Colonel Ahmed Al-Mismari, “Only 70 terrorists remain in a block of 12 buildings in Ganfouda and [others in] a dozen square-kilometre zone downtown in Sabri and Suq Al-Hout.”
According to Mismari, there is no need to launch new offensives into these areas because the enemy cannot be supplied. “We don’t want to destroy more buildings,” he said adding that strategy is to wait until the terrorists surrender or kill themselves in suicide attacks.
In Benghazi, the main concern now is landmines. “The fight is over but we have to be careful with mines. They are everywhere: on the road, in the houses” said an officer from the Special Forces Unit 21 while patrolling in Ganfouda area. “In 2011, it was a noble war, a face-to-face war. It is a dirty war this time,” The LNA, he said, was asking for international NGOs help to de-mine Benghazi so the soldiers could focus on other targets.
If the LNA takes control of Jufra airbase “We will be able to launch airstrikes everywhere in the country,” explained Mohamed Marfour, the Benina air base commander. This, he said, explained why fighting is currently so heavy in the Jufra area against Misratan-led forces.
He also pointed out the importance of Derna. He insisted the LNA has never forgotten the town but has altered its plans. “We surrender the town while we are gathering all the information we can. We shall proceed by targeted airstrikes “ he said. He also revealed that the LNA was giving ammunition to its supporters inside the city so they can launch a revolt when the time comes.
“We are the Libyan National Army, we are everywhere” said Mismari, “We have operation rooms in Benghazi, in Derna, in Ajdabiya, in Sirte. Our final aim is Tripoli. If Misratan brigades move to Tripoli to prevent us from entering, we are ready.”
General Mohamed Hamouda, head of the LNA Sirte operations room, located in Ras Lanuf, asserted that he was ready for any eventuality. “If we have orders to go west of Sirte or Misrata, we’ll obey. We are soldiers.” Nevertheless, he said he preferred to focus on securing oil production sites such as Mabrouk and Ghani to the south of the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil export terminals.
According to Jamal Zahoui, head of Special Forces Unit 21, most of the LNA commanders do not consider Fezzan a priority. They believe the region to be more or less already in their hands. “I don’t consider that the south is not in our control,” he said.
Mismari also spoke of Ali Kana and his pro-Qaddafi Tuareg ‘army’ based south of Sebha. It is a unit of unknown strength which has claimed it will one day head north. Mismari said the force is largely made up of foreign mercenaries.
“Kana doesn’t have professional military officers with him,” he said, adding that pre-Revolution senior army officers have since joined the LNA after the House of Representatives passed a law to pardon Qaddafi followers.