Four members of security forces loyal to Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar have been killed in the city of Derna after an attacker drove his booby-trapped vehicle toward a group of soldiers.
A spokesman for Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) said the assailant was bearing a white flag as he drove toward the troops on Wednesday.
Ahmed al-Mismari added that the white Chevrolet approached the troops in central Derna and asked to leave the combat zone, but the bomber set off explosives packed into the vehicle when he got close.
Derna is the only major city in eastern Libyan that has remained alien to LNA. It has been under the LNA siege for almost two years and the Derna Protection Force (DPF) has been mostly in control.
To gain more support for its massive ground offensive, LNA has labeled DPF as a group linked to al-Qaeda, saying the Derna operation is aimed at purging the city of terrorists. DPF, however, has brushed aside those claims and says it is resisting Haftar’s push to dominate the entire Libya through military assistance from certain countries.
Haftar, a general under former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has been mostly opposed to efforts by the United Nations to establish a unity government in Libya. He has openly opposed the rule of one such administration in the capital Tripoli since it was established in 2015 and continues to remain close to the rival government and parliament in the east of Libya.
Haftar and LNA have been backed by certain Arab governments, including the United Arab Emirates and Libya’s neighbor Egypt, while governments in Europe that once contributed to a NATO military operation to oust Gaddafi have also offered Haftar diplomatic support.