UPDATE 1-East Libyan army takes rivals' final holdout in southwest Benghazi

Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:22pm GMT

(Adds comment from LNA spokesman, updates toll, adds availability of video)

By Ayman al-Warfalli

BENGHAZI, Libya, March 18 (Reuters) - East Libyan forces said they captured the final holdout of Islamist-led rivals in the southwest of Benghazi on Saturday, ending weeks of resistance by fighters camped in a cluster of apartment blocks.

The eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) has been waging a campaign in Libya's second biggest city for nearly three years and still faces pockets of resistance in two northern neighbourhoods, despite making big gains since early last year.

Milad al-Zwai, spokesman for the LNA's special forces, said the siege at the "12 blocks" site ended when rival fighters tried to escape at dawn. He said 23 were killed and six arrested while seven LNA troops were killed and at least six wounded.

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said as many as 40 of the LNA's opponents had been killed. The figures could not be independently verified.

Dozens of family members had also been in the besieged buildings, where according to humanitarian groups they had run out of food and water.

Efforts to evacuate the families had largely failed. Mismari said six families were detained by the LNA and would be investigated. It was not immediately clear how many of the LNA's opponents or their families had escaped.

The LNA also said it had lost a MiG-21 fighter jet over the Benghazi district of Sabri on Saturday, though the pilot had ejected. It still faces armed opposition in the northern neighbourhoods of Sabri and Souq al-Hout.   Continued...

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