2014-10-30 18:03:00

Secularists seemingly getting superiority over Islamists in Libya war - analyst

Moscow, October 30, Interfax - A former Russian ambassador to Libya argued on Thursday that there are indications that the balance in the current standoff in the Arab country between Islamists controlling Tripoli and secularists entrenched in the east is tilting in favor of the latter.

"One is getting the impression that the forces of General Khalifa Haftar and the new Libyan government of Abdullah al-Thani, which has been formed by the parliament elected on June 25 and is taking shelter in Tobruk, will win, but that will take time. It's a matter of several months. And we're primarily talking about cities in the north of the country anyway," Alexey Podtserob, who today holds a senior position at the Institute of Oriental Studies, a Moscow-based think tank, told Interfax.

The standoff between the Haftar-led Libyan army and Islamist group Dawn of Libya has been going on since mid-May.

Initially the Islamists captured Benghazi, the international airport of Tripoli, and then the capital city itself.

"However, after a regrouping of forces and air support from, as is assumed, United Arab Emirates aircraft that were based at airfields in Egypt, the army units supporting Haftar and tribal forces allying with them have been changing the situation in their favor slowly, step by step, since the middle of October," Podtserob said.

"According to the latest reports, they are waging fierce battles for Benghazi, and there also are battles in progress in the vicinity of Jebel Nafusa in the west of the country, but the Islamist front remains in control of Tripoli, where the former parliament has formed its government, and Derna, a city in the east of Libya," he said.

"How long it will take to solve the problem of the south, which has become a refuge for some jihadist groups after their ouster from Mail, is hard to tell," the ex-diplomat said.