Libya's government claims to have retaken Tripoli as Russian-backed rebel retreats

Libya's internationally recognised government has claimed victory in the battle for control of the country's capital after more than a year of fighting.  

Turkish-backed forces fighting for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said on Thursday morning that they had retaken control of all of the Tripoli city administrative area as forces loyal to Gen Khalifa Haftar withdrew from the suburbs. 

Separately Reuters cited a source in Gen Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) saying that it would complete its withdrawal from the Tripoli districts of Ain Zara, Abu Salim and Qasr Ben Gashir on Thursday. 

The announcements came as both sides prepared to resume UN-brokered ceasefire talks in Geneva.  

Fayez-al Serraj, the prime minister of the GNA, was due to meet Turkey's  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to discuss how to consolidate their gains. 

Gen Haftar, who rules eastern and southern Libya in tandem with a parliament that split with the GNA in 2016, launched an assault on Tripoli in April 2019. 

The LNA, with backing from several foreign countries including the UAE, Egypt and Russia,  succeeded in seizing the city's southern suburbs but became bogged in a war of attrition before it could reach the city centre. 

The tide of the war began to turn after Turkey intervened on the side of the GNA at the beginning of this year,  deploying drones, air-defence systems, and thousands of Syrian fighters in support of Tripoli. 

GNA troops on Thursday recaptured the city's derelict international airport, a focal point of fighting over the past year. 

LNA troops are believed to be consolidating around the town of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli. 

Hundreds of Russian fighters, believed to be with the Kremlin-linked Wagner private military company, have been seen accompanying the LNA pull back. 

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that large numbers of Russian and Soviet made anti-personnel mines not previously recorded in Libya had been found planted in civilian areas abandoned by the LNA. 

“Any use of internationally banned landmines is unconscionable,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. “Those fighting in Tripoli should halt using landmines and start clearing them to avoid further harm to life and limb.”


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