Libyan Army Forces Push Toward Tripoli's Center

Libyan National Army Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive in April to take Tripoli from militias loosely allied with a UN-supported government

File photo: Fighters loyal to Hiftar reportedly advancing on a road south of the capital Tripoli, May 26, 2019.

A Libyan official and residents say heavy clashes are slowly nearing the center of Libya's capital, Tripoli, as forces loyal to the military commander Khalifa Hifter battle to seize power.

Hifter's self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive last month to take Tripoli from militias loosely allied with a UN-supported government.

Saraj al-Majbri, an aid to the LNA's chief of staff, said Monday its forces had made gains in the area of Salah al-Deen, a few kilometers from the city center.

Two residents said heavy fighting was taking place along a strategic road linking the capital with its international airport, which has not been functional since 2014.

They spoke on condition of anonymity for their safety.

The fighting has reportedly killed at least 562 people, including combatants and civilians.

Libya split between rival governments in the east and west after descending into chaos following the 2011 NATO-supported uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Hifter's offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed Gadhafi. The country is governed by rival authorities: The internationally backed government in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Hifter is aligned with. Each is backed by an array of militias.