LONDON: An Al-Qaeda leader known as “Abu Talha Al-Libi” has been killed in an operation near Sabha, southern Libya, the Libyan National Army said Friday.
“Abu Talha Al-Libi” was killed on Friday morning after a raid on a house he was sharing with other armed men in an area called Al-Qarda Al-Shati, close to Sabha in southern Libya, Al Arabiya reported.
Two other militants, among them one Egyptian, were also killed in the operation in southwestern Libya, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said.
Abu Talha was arrested in 1996 by the Libyan security services for an attempt to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi.
He left for Syria in 2013 where he was put in charge of a group of foreign extremist fighters who opposed the Assad regime. Abu Talha helped other extremists set up the Al-Nusra Front (now known as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham), and returned to Libya in 2014, Al Arabiya reported.
Abu Talha was also closely associated with Al-Qaeda leaders in northern Africa.
Earlier on Wednesday, the forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a military operation to "purge" extremists and criminal gangs from the south of the conflict-hit nation.
A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said its fighters had advanced in "several regions in the south" from an airbase some 650 kilometres (400 miles) from the capital Tripoli.
The aim is to "assure security for inhabitants in the south-west from terrorists, be they the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal gangs," spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said.
The LNA said it was also looking to secure petroleum facilities and tackle flows of clandestine migrants heading northwards to the Mediterranean coast.
It called on armed groups in the target area, mainly made up of tribal fighters, to withdraw from military and civilian installations.
Military sources told AFP that numerous LNA units had taken up positions in recent days around the region's main city of Sabha.
Libya has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the NATO-backed overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Haftar supports an administration in the east of the country that is opposed to the internationally backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
The chaos has seen extremists and people traffickers gain a foothold in the south of the country.
Daesh has carried out repeated attacks across the country, targeting both Haftar's forces and the rival Tripoli-based authorities.