Stalemate persists in Tripoli after overnight fighting

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Heavy fighting raged overnight in the battle for the Libyan capital Tripoli, with neither faction able to secure gains on the frontlines as an offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar entered its fifth week.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied to a parallel administration based in Benghazi, has in the past week brought up more troops and heavy guns to the frontline.

But it has been unable to breach the defenses in the city’s southern suburbs of forces loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.

Libya has been in a state of chaos since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 after 40 years in power by insurgents backed by NATO air power.

The battle for Tripoli has all but wrecked UN-backed efforts for a peace deal between the rival factions, and has disrupted the oil industry of a country that is one of Africa’s largest producers.

On the frontline

Heavy fighting raged from Thursday afternoon until early morning Friday in the area of the former international airport but the frontline has changed little, residents said.

The LNA moved up on one part of the front earlier this week but was repelled by the Tripoli forces, who had built barriers, including shipping containers, on southern roads where tanks and artillery guns are in position.

The Tripoli forces regained some ground but analysts say the threat of the LNA will persist as long as it keep its forward base in Gharyan, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli.

The town is difficult to take because it lies in mountains that rise from the coastal plain on which Tripoli sits.

The LNA has sent troops and material to Gharayn by road from Haftar’s power base in Benghazi, the main eastern city, or via the central air base in Jufrah, military sources say.

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