TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Two commanders of the eastern Libyan forces trying to take the capital Tripoli from the internationally-recognised government were killed late on Friday in a drone strike, officials said.
The strike is a blow to Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA), which in April launched a campaign to take Tripoli. So far that offensive has not breached the city’s southern defences.
The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.
The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders – Mohsen al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade – died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.
Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.
Libya has been in turmoil since the rule of leader Muammar Gaddafi was brought to an end in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Last week, Germany announced plans for a U.N.-backed conference on the future of Libya in an attempt to force the many regional actors to stop funding and arming the country’s warring sides. The LNA is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while Turkey supports forces allied to the Tripoli government.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Writing by Ahmed Tolba and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Sandra Maler and Christina Fincher)