Libyan pro-government fighters wrest control of key town from Islamists

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, November 24, 2014

Fighters loyal to Libya's internationally-recognized government have seized control of the key western town of Kekla after more than 40 days of clashes with Islamists, both sides said Monday.

Libya has been grappling with a sharply deteriorating security since a NATO-backed uprising toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In the three years since, rival militias have clashed in Libya's main cities, including capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government in the country, each of which has its own institutions.

Vying for legislative authority are the newly-elected House of Representatives, the internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, which convenes in Tobruk, and the Islamist administration, which continues to convene in Tripoli.

Pro-government fighters from the western town of Zintan, backed by parts of the army and air force loyal to Thani, launched a counter-offensive in October to wrest back control of the strategic outpost of Kekla, southwest of Tripoli.

Thani's government said on Monday that the offensive had brought Kekla under the "command of the army" and that it was intended to end "liberate Tripoli."

The head of the Islamist administration in the capital, Jadallah al-Abidi, acknowledged the loss of Kekla, but insisted the defeat did not signal the "collapse" of Islamist forces in the west.

Private television broadcast images on Sunday night appearing to show an army colonel surrounded by soldiers in Kekla after retaking control of the town.

Rebel groups who fought Gaddafi have largely refused to give up their weapons, and the government has failed to establish an effective regular army or police force.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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