The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, announced Monday that its forces have recaptured three strategic cities in western Libya.
The GNA wrested control of Surman, about 60km west of Tripoli, Sabratha, just west of Surman, and al-Ajaylat from the Libyan National Army in a major development, a little over a year since the military, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, launched its operation to capture Tripoli.
In declaring victory, Sarraj issued a statement saying his forces had “waged epic heroic battles” on the Abugrein front.
Addressing “conspiratorial capitals,” he said: “Your sons whom you had sent to die in aggression on our land will be returned to you in coffins with their identification papers.” He added that the foreign ministry will be tasked with this mission.
Sarraj vowed to fight “until the last soldier”.
“We will fight you and are pleased to inform you that your plans have turned to dust,” he stated. “Your attempt to undermine peace by attacking Abugrein has failed. We are today recapturing the cities of Sabratha and Surman that had been taken from us.”
He added that his forced will forge ahead towards all other “kidnapped” cities, “to lift oppression against their people and impose the authority of the state” throughout Libya.
Sarraj also made a “final warning” to the LNA, demanding that the forces lay down their arms and surrender and pledging that they will have “swift and fair” trials.
On Monday, residents and military sources from both sides confirmed that GNA-aligned forces had taken full control of Surman and Sabratha. The area has been a hub for migrant smuggling and militants in recent years.
Videos circulating online showed dozens of GNA fighters shooting in the air near a roundabout in central Sabratha.
The city’s pro-LNA municipal council said dawn drone strikes had killed and wounded a number of fighters. “The sound of the drones above the city was like a beehive,” said one resident, according to Reuters. “There were many air strikes.”
Prisoners were freed from a security building in Surman, according to an LNA military source.
In Tripoli on Monday, loud explosions and heavy artillery fire could be heard across the city throughout the day. On Sunday there were heavy clashes south of Misrata, a major base of military support for the GNA.