TRIPOLI: Libya’s internationally recognized government regained control of Tripoli on Thursday, driving eastern forces out of the capital after a 14-month battle in which foreign powers poured in arms and fighters.
In the recaptured southern suburbs, bodies still lay on the ground and fighters brandished weapons abandoned by the eastern forces.
In the city center, civilians were glad the fighting was over. “It’s an incredible feeling. People can now return home and there is no more shelling,” said a 37-year-old man from the Ain Zara district, one of the areas taken, who asked not to use his name.
A military source with the eastern forces said they were pulling back from all of Tripoli’s suburbs. Government forces said they now held everything within the city boundary.
It represents a stinging reversal for eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive on Tripoli last year pledging to unite Libya after years of chaos.
The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, said in a call with journalists on Thursday the situation had escalated dangerously, but added that Haftar’s defeat in Tripoli created an opportunity to stop fighting.
“Participants have a choice to watch it escalate into a full-blown regional war or to finally de-escalate,” he said.
The main outside powers engaged in the conflict have welcomed the decision to resume cease-fire talks and publicly say they support a political resolution, but it is unclear if they could agree on a settlement.
It leaves Libya still partitioned between rival administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi in the east.