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Two Armed Groups in Eastern Libya Join Unity Government Forces

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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Two major armed groups in eastern Libya announced their support of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) on Saturday as unity government forces capture Al-Gurdabiyah airbase from ISIS militants in Sirte.

The Special Anti-terrorist Force and the Military Intelligence Brigade, who were once allied with General Khalifa Haftar, have decided to join the unity government in their fight against ISIS held Sirte.

The commanders of the both armed groups held a joint press conference with Defense Minister Al-Mahdi al-Bargathi on Saturday to announce the decision.

In a meeting in Paris on Tuesday Special Representative of the Secretary General Martin Kobler  urged Libya’s rival factions to unite alongside the GNA  in the battle against ISIS and stop fighting each other.

“The fight against ISIS, which is the number one enemy, must be a Libyan fight and a united fight,” Kobler said.

The GNA forces have made significant gains this week combating ISIS forces near Sirte.

In the west, Libyan troops based in Misrata recaptured several towns, including the Al-Khaleej steam power plant, 15 kilometres west of Sirte, and the Al-Gurdabiyah airbase, 15 kilometres south of Sirte, from ISIS militants.

In addition, in the east, forces loyal to the Unity government, based in Ajdabiya were able to take hold of the towns Ben Jawad and Nawfiliya, which are around 180 kilometers east of Sirte.

On Friday, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj told Reuters in an interview that no one would be excluded from a national army as long as they submitted to central political authority, not even General Khalifa Haftar, who last month announced his own campaign against ISIS.

“We’re not going to exclude anyone like Haftar, or any other person, as long as he obeys the political leadership,” said Sarraj.

Haftar’s militia is not yet in the process of attacking ISIS, instead, he has waged a war against Islamists in Derna, and is currently engaged in a battle with Islamists for control of the eastern city of Benghazi.

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