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Authorities in western Libya free 120 captured fighters loyal to Haftar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Prisoners of war loyal to General Khalifa Haftar are pictured after their release in Zawiya, western Libya, March 31, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Several years into a battle for power in Libya, authorities in the western part have now moved toward reconciliation by realeasing 120 captured fighters loyal to the eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The prisoners were released following a ceremony in Zawiya, about 45 kilometers east of Tripoli, on Wednesday.

The men had been fighting under the command of General Haftar, who launched an offensive to seize the capital from a unity government in April 2019.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the UN-recognized government - known as the Government of National Accord (GNA) - based in Tripoli, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, backed militarily by the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), composed of armed rebel forces led by Haftar.

The country descended into unprecedented chaos about two years ago after the LNA moved toward Tripoli.

The conflict escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into Libya.


In October 2020, the rival groups signed a truce, setting in motion a UN-led process that saw a new transitional government installed in February.

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s new interim government is expected to replace both existing administrations in Libya and would lead the war-ravaged country into December elections.

Dbeibah has called for the departure of some 20,000 foreign militants present in the country.

Abdallah al-Lafi, vice-president of the country's new presidential council, on Wednesday hailed the liberation of the prisoners as "a concession in the interests of the nation" and called for further reconciliation and rebuilding.

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