By Ayman Amzein.
Benghazi, 20 April 2016:
The Libya National Army (LNA) says it has driven the remaining fighters from the so-called Islamic . . .[restrict]State (IS) out of the Derna area.
Abdulkarim Sabra, spokesman for the LNA’s Omar Mukhtar Operations Room which covers Derna and the surrounding region, told the Libya Herald that the army had taken control of Derna’s south eastern suburb of Fataieh and the area known as District 400 at the far east end of the town following a new ground and air offensive today. IS forces had, however, managed to escape, he said, claiming that they had pulled out of the town on the express orders of IS’s “caliph” himself, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The terrorists, he stated, had retreated towards the desert road to Ajdabiya, heading for Sirte, taking 32 vehicles with them. They had, Sabra added, refuelled their vehicles at a petrol station on the way before wrecking it.
In today’s fighting, Sabra added, two soldiers had been killed and one injured. He did not disclose where the casualties had taken place.
The Fataieh area with its farms, had remained an IS stronghold long after the organisation was forced out of the town by local mujahideen forces last June. Ever since, there have been continuing clashes between the two groups, with tacit support, particularly air support for the mujahideen coming from the LNA despite officially having nothing to do with each other. The unofficial collaboration against IS has continued, although in recent weeks the LNA has increased its ground presence in the area.
Following today’s announcement by Derna Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council that the town was now free of terrorists, there were claims by anti-Hafter voices that IS was forced out of Fataieh purely by the mujahideen and not the LNA. However, LNA helicopters were reported still targeting Fataieh this afternoon and this evening there were further reports of continued fighting near Al-Mekhili, some 100 kilometres south west of Derna and on the way to the Tobruk-Ajdabiya road as LNA land and air forces targeted the retreating militants. According to Sabra, Fataieh is now controlled by the LNA’s 102 Brigade.
In Derna itself, people took to the streets to celebrate the defeat of IS. [/restrict]