(photo credit:JPOST STAFF)
BENGHAZI, Libya - East Libyan forces said they captured the final holdout of Islamist-led rivals in the southwest of Benghazi on Saturday, ending weeks of resistance by fighters camped in a group of tower blocks.
The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) has been waging a campaign in Libya's second biggest city for nearly three years and still faces pockets of resistance in two northern neighborhoods, despite making big gains since early last year.
Milad al-Zwai, spokesman for the LNA's special forces, said the siege at the "12 blocks" ended when rival fighters tried to escape at dawn. He said 23 of them had been killed and six arrested while five LNA troops were killed and six wounded.
Dozens of family members had also been in the besieged buildings and an unknown number were detained by the LNA. It was not immediately clear whether any of the LNA's opponents or their families had escaped.
The LNA said it had lost a MiG-21 fighter jet over the Benghazi district of Sabri on Saturday, though the pilot had ejected. It still faces armed opposition in the northern neighborhoods of Sabri and Souq al-Hout.
LNA leader Khalifa Haftar launched his Dignity Operation in Benghazi in May 2014, saying he wanted to rid the city of Islamist militants following a series of bombings and assassinations.