Libya's Haftar announces 'total liberation' of Benghazi
Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar announced the "total liberation" of second city Benghazi on Wednesday, which was overrun by jihadi militants three years ago.
"After a continuous struggle against terrorism and its agents that lasted more than three years... we announce to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism," Haftar said in a speech broadcast on television.
"Today, Benghazi enters a new era of peace, security, reconciliation... and reconstruction," said Haftar.
He paid homage to "a caravan of martyrs" who fell to control the city.
Field Marshal Haftar declared war on militants in Benghazi, three years after the 2011 revolution that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Code-named Operation Dignity, the assault led by Haftar targeted several jihadi groups that overrun Benghazi after the 2011 uprising.
These include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias among them suspected members of the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia.
Haftar's announcement came only hours after his self-styled Libyan National Army said they had cornered the last jihadis in a neighbourhood of the eastern city, which had been the cradle of the uprising.
The LNA said they were surrounding the militants in al-Sabri central district after routing them from the Soug al-Hout neighbourhood.
LNA General Abdessalam al-Hassi told AFP they were cornered in a small part of al-Sabri and under attack from airstrikes, as well as ground forces on three fronts.
|After a continuous struggle against terrorism and its agents that lasted more than three years... we announce to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism.
- Khalifa Haftar
Last week a medical source in the city said 44 LNA soldiers had been killed in June alone in al-Sabri and Soug al-Hout.
Haftar does not recognise the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and instead backs a rival parliament based in the country's far east.
In May, the Libyan foreign minister said Haftar must accept civilian rule in order to play a role in the future of the North African country.
"Haftar must first accept to work under a civilian authority and officially approve the political deal" that gave rise to the power-sharing authority, Mohamed al-Taher Siala told AFP.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country.