Armed group attacks air base in southern Libya held by LNA
BENGHAZI/ TRIPOLI - An armed group attacked a major air base in southern Libya held by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, on Thursday after the LNA moved most of its forces north to try to seize the capital Tripoli, officials said.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) forces managed to repel the assault on the Tamanhint air base near Sabha, the main city in Libya's south, two LNA military officials said.
An LNA soldier was killed at the base's main gate, one official said, describing the attackers as "militia."
It was unclear whether the attackers were linked to the government in Tripoli that is fighting Haftar-led forces.
Haftar's LNA began its thrust on Tripoli two weeks ago vowing the put an end to to the factional anarchy and clear the country of "terrorist hubs" that have plagued the oil-producing country since late dictator Muammar Qaddafi's fall to a Western-backed uprising in 2011.
The LNA has concentrated its forces near Tripoli, using mainly the Jufrah air base but also Tamanhint to fly in material and send it on by road up north towards the Mediterranean coast.
The LNA had seized Libya's sprawling south with its two main oilfield earlier this year, although tribesmen with flexible loyalties remain strong in the sparsely populated desert region.
Over the weekend, the LNA dispatched units to the eastern oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider in case of any attack on them by forces aligned with the Tripoli-based government.
In Europe, France has given Haftar support in the past, viewing him as the best bet to end Libya's disorder.
Italy, the ex-colonial power with extensive oil holdings in Libya, backs the Tripoli government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and fumed over French reluctance to endorse a recent European Union resolution urging Haftar to halt his advance.
The UN Security Council has been considering a British-drafted resolution that would demand a ceasefire and urge all nations with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance.