Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) on Thursday took everyone by surprise after it officially announced regaining full control over the strategic northwestern Gharyan town, which is located some 80 km away from the capital, Tripoli.
Prior to the takeover, Gharyan served as headquarters to the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces under the leadership of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. After losing its main forward base, the eastern-based LNA announced spearheading a counterattack to retake the town.
An LNA officer, who requested anonymity, denied claims about GNA loyalists circling and zeroing in on LNA positions northwest of the African state.
“Pro-LNA troops were temporarily withdrawn from Gharyan until further notice,” the sources said.
On the other hand, the LNA launched a counter-military campaign that acts across all fronts on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli. This offensive is meant to regain control of Gharyan.
According to military sources, the LNA’S air forces launched a series of air strikes targeting pro-GNA militias based in one of Gharyan’s camps.
The LNA media center later released a broadcast revealing that the strategic town was taken over after GNA-tied militias succeeded in bribing a number of Gharyan-based officers who turned coat and handed over the keys to the city.
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari, during a presser in Benghazi on Wednesday, said that the battle for Gharyan “first started on Facebook before moving into the battlefield.”
Sleeper cells on the inside guaranteed pro-GNA militia advances, he added.
Mismari admitted that GNA forces had secured control over some parts of the town without acknowledging that they had taken over the whole city.
“Some sleeper cells first attempted to destabilize the security of Mount Gharyan and secured the progress of terrorist groups,” he reaffirmed, whilst stressing that “the situation is still under control.”
On the other hand, witnesses reported that GNA loyalists took control of the LNA’s main operations room after pro-Haftar troops left town.
As for the GNA, the Presidential Council headed by Fayez al-Sarraj issued a statement saying Gharyan was “completely liberated” and considered it the first step towards thwarting a so-called coup attempt looking for a power grab.