Libyan forces opposed to Khalifa Haftar claimed to have retaken Gharyan, a strategic town where the controversial commander’s fighters were based in the west of the country.
“Gharyan is under our total control,” said Mustafa al-Mejii, spokesperson for forces loyal to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord.
Dozens of pro-Haftar fighters were killed and at least 18 were taken prisoner, he told AFP.
The claim came after the spokesman for Haftar’s forces accused “sleeper cells” of allowing GNA forces to enter part of Gharyan, 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli, without admitting the loss of the town.
He said the fighting was ongoing and that the situation was under control.
Mejii hailed what he described as a “significant victory” and said he now expected Haftar’s forces to “collapse.”
Images were circulated on social media networks of GNA forces patrolling Gharyan and of prisoners said to be pro-Haftar fighters.
Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed long-time leader Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, with a multitude of militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.
Haftar, a retired general who had taken part in the revolt against Kadhafi, unleashed an offensive in May 2014 to purge Libya of Islamists he branded “terrorists.”
After a rapid advance from the east and south of the country, Haftar seized Gharyan on April 2, and two days later launched an offensive on Tripoli where the GNA is based.
But Haftar forces have been halted on the southern outskirts of the capital by fighters who back the GNA.
With reporting from AFP