Tripoli – Fighters loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government have seized control of the key western town of Kekla after more than 40 days of clashes with Islamists, both sides said on Monday.
A diverse coalition of mainly Islamist militias drove fighters allied with the government from Tripoli in August, after weeks of fighting that killed more than 100 people.
It created a rival Islamist administration, known as the General National Congress, as the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani took refuge in the east of the country.
Pro-government fighters from the western town of Zintan, backed by parts of the army and air force loyal to Thani, launched a counter-offensive in October to wrest back control of the strategic outpost of Kekla, southwest of Tripoli.
The head of the Islamist administration in the capital, Jadallah al-Abidi, acknowledged the loss of Kekla, but insisted the defeat did not signal the “collapse” of Islamist forces in the west.
Private television broadcast images on Sunday night appearing to show an army colonel surrounded by soldiers in Kekla after retaking control of the town.
Since the 2011 revolution that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the authorities in the North African nation have failed to stamp their authority on the militias that fought in the uprising.