Benghazi (Libya), Jun 12 (AFP) Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said today they are advancing rapidly on the eastern city of Derna, despite troops being hit by suicide attacks. Also Read - 7 Indians Kidnapped in Libya Released, to Return to Their Homes After Formalities: MEA

Haftar has vowed to “liberate” Derna, an Islamist stronghold that is home to more than 120,000 people and the only eastern city outside of his control. Also Read - Fears Rise as Libya FM Claims Women-Children Buried Alive by Haftar Forces, UN Chief Expresses Deep Shock as 8 Mass Graves Discovered

But as his self-styled Libyan National Army continued its offensive on Tuesday, two explosions were heard as suicide bombers hit forces in the southern Shiha district. Also Read - No Military Intervention Needed in Libya, Say Italy And Egypt

Without giving a toll for the attack, LNA spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said civilians were among the casualties as the roof of a family home collapsed.

Last night, he said, another suicide attack killed two LNA fighters and wounded three.

The LNA was “advancing steadily to liberate a very small remaining pocket before liberating the whole of Derna,” he added.

Abidi said “terrorists” were “resorting to suicide attacks after they failed to tackle” the LNA conventionally.

Derna is held by a ragtag alliance of Islamist and jihadist militias, including groups close to Al-Qaeda, hostile to both Haftar and the Islamic State group.

The city is located more than 1,000 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli and around 300 kilometres east of second city Benghazi.

Haftar has struggled to succeed in the fight against insurgents, according to Federica Saini Fasanotti from the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“I am not sure that this operation will bring a quick victory for him in military terms. In social terms it is already a disaster,” she said.

Since the start of the offensive on May 7, residents have faced food and medicine shortages, as well as cuts to electricity, water and phone lines. (AFP) CK CK

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.