By Ayman Amzein.
Benghazi, 21 February 2016:
The Libyan National Army (LNA) appears to have inflicted a significant defeat on Islamist militants in . . .[restrict]Ajdabiya.
Residents confirm LNA claims that it now controls the town. One told the Libya Herald that the areas around Istanbul Street and the industrial estate to the south of it, both previously controlled by the militants, was today firmly in LNA hands.
“All Ajdabiya is free,” he declared. The militants from the Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shoura Council (ARSC), of which Ansar Al-Sharia is a part, had pulled out the town after heavy fighting, he explained, stating that three LNA soldiers had died in the fighting and 29 had been wounded.
There were no figures for ARSC casualties.
Many of those fighting with the LNA were, the resident claimed, local Salafists rather than than the regular army. In December local Salafist fighters supporting the LNA were also involved in fierce clashes with the ARSC.
This is not, however, the first time that militants have pulled out of the Istanbul area.
They held it early last summer until in June, following the US air attack on a farm outside Ajdabiya, they were driven out of the town, again by LNA units. Bug they then returned.
The industrial estate has been a stronghold for the militants who have also included the pro-Islamic State United Ajdabiya Shoura Council, a breakaway from the ARSC. In November, LNA planes bombed it, killing three Egyptian workers and a militiamen.
Nonetheless, today’s action in Ajdabiya, in conjunction with the LNA advances in Benghazi, represent a serious blow to the militants. [/restrict]