TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Forces allied to one of two rival governments vying for power in Libya launched an air strike near Tripoli on Thursday, officials and residents said, in a struggle that began when one group seized the capital in August and set up its own cabinet.
Libya is caught in fighting between two sides, each with its own government and parliament. One is a self-declared government created after fighters from a group known as Libya Dawn took over Tripoli in August. The other is the internationally recognized government, forced out of Tripoli and now operating from the east of the country.
Both sides gave different accounts of the target of Thursday’s air strike.
The Libya Dawn-linked government said through its own state news website that the target had been a poultry farm in Qaser Ben Gashir, a town south of Tripoli. The area is close to the old Tripoli airport, which was the scene of a month-long battle in the summer.
But the army of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s government said it had hit military installations and positions of Libya Dawn in Qaser Ben Gashir, its spokesman Mohamed El Hejazi said.
“We are extending our strikes as long as we know more about the ammunition places,” he said.
Residents said they had heard an explosion in the area.
At least three people were killed on Tuesday in air strikes on a town west of Tripoli, again carried out by forces loyal to Thinni, officials said.
After the NATO-backed war ended Muammar Gaddafi’s one-man rule in 2011, oil-producing Libya has struggled to reach stability. Former rebel brigades who once fought side by side have now turned on each other, aligning themselves with rival political factions in a scrabble for control.
On Wednesday, Thinni’s government said in a statement his forces had started a military offensive to take back Tripoli. Thinni’s government has allied itself with forces of former army general Khalifa Haftar who had declared war on Islamists in May.
Libya’s neighbors welcomed plans by the United Nations to hold a new round of talks next week between the two sides, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti said after meeting colleagues in Khartoum.
At the same time, the neighbors stuck to the U.N. position that Libya’s legitimate parliament was the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, according to a final communique.
Thinni’s Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dairi, who joined the meeting, said U.N. Special Envoy Bernadino Leon might bring in more parties to the dialogue, without elaborating. He said the talks would again take place in the southern city of Ghadames.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, Ulf Laessing, Ahmed Elumami, Mahmoud Mourad and Khaled Abdelaziz; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky