Eastern Libyan forces kill eight in advance south of Tripoli

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Eight fighters allied to Libya’s internationally recognized government were killed in air strikes as rival eastern forces stepped up an offensive to retake a strategic city south of Tripoli, officials said on Monday.

Another 10 members of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord’s (GNA) forces were wounded, their spokesman Mustafa Majae said, and the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) had taken control of “some military points” near Gharyan, some 90 km (56 miles) south of the capital.

“Our forces are still fighting to repel them,” Majae told Reuters.

The city’s council said Gharyan had been under attack from drone-propelled air strikes since Sunday morning.

The third-largest oil producer in Africa, Libya has descended into chaos since the ouster and death of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

The LNA, which took control of the country’s east in 2017, lost Gharyan at the end of June, after having made the city its main forward base for an offensive on the capital.

That offensive was launched in April, hindering efforts by a U.N. Mission to hold a national conference in the city with a view to organizing nationwide elections.

The LNA has not advanced beyond Tripoli’s southern suburbs, and the front line had not changed significantly for weeks.

Gharyan mayor Yousef Ibderi told local TV channels the casualties were from air strikes targeting GNA forces at the southern outskirts of the city.

The LNA said three areas adjacent to Gharyan were under their control and that they had destroyed Kornet missiles and 12 armored vehicles.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi; Editing by Nadine Awadalla and John Stonestreet