UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces took over the strategic al-Watiya airbase previously controlled by Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar, located 140km (87mi) from Tripoli on Monday.
«Now al-Watiya airbase has been liberated after the Fajr prayer [early morning],» said GNA Army Colonel Mohammed Dwah, at the airbase. «The liberation was conducted before the... Еще beginning of Al Duhr prayer [midday],» he stated. «
Charred vehicles, a wrecked high-rise building and military aircraft were seen at the fortified military complex.
A Russian-made Pantsir surface-to-air missile system was also captured, which the GNA announced will shortly be operational.
The LNA took control of the airbase, also known as Okba Ibn Nafa, in the Nuqat al Khams district, over six years ago. Established by the US in 1942, it's the second most valued airbase after Mitiga Airport and is known as the only airbase where civilian flights are not permitted.
Its runways, which can be used by fighter jets, as well as its hangars, fuel tankers, vehicle storage, and the capacity to deploy 10,000 soldiers without external support, make it a key strategic location.
Following the ousting of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has been split into areas controlled by the GNA in Tripoli and the northwest, and territories held by eastern-based LNA in Benghazi lead by Haftar.
Recently, the UN has appealed to both sides to stop fighting and allow humanitarian workers to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.