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Airstrike Targets Tripoli Outskirts as Libya's Rival Groups Battle

Black smoke billows from a warehouse after an airstrike in Zawura, west of Triploi, Libya, Dec. 2, 2014.
Black smoke billows from a warehouse after an airstrike in Zawura, west of Triploi, Libya, Dec. 2, 2014.

Forces allied to one of two rival governments vying for power in Libya conducted an airstrike near Tripoli on Thursday, officials and residents said, part of an ongoing struggle since a group seized the capital and set up its own cabinet.

Libya is caught in the conflict between the two sides, each with its own government and parliament. One is a self-declared government created after fighters from a group known as Libya Dawn took over Tripoli in August, and the other the internationally-recognized government, forced out of Tripoli and now operating from the country's east.

Both sides gave different accounts of the target of Thursday's airstrike.
The Libya Dawn-linked government said through its own state news website the target had been a poultry farm in Qaser Ben Gashir, a town south of Tripoli. The area is close to the old Tripoli airport which was the scene of a month-long battle in the summer.

But the army of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni's government said it had hit military installations and positions of Libya Dawn in Qaser Ben Gashir, its spokesman Mohamed El Hejazi said.

“We are extending our strikes as long we know more about the ammunition places,” he said.

Residents said they had heard an explosion in the area.

At least three people were killed on Tuesday in airstrikes on a town west of Tripoli, again carried out by forces loyal to Thinni, officials said.

After the NATO-backed war ended Moammer Gadhafi's one-man rule in 2011, oil-producing Libya has struggled to reach stability. Former rebel brigades who once fought side by side have now turned on each other, aligning themselves with rival political factions in a scrabble for control.

On Wednesday, Thinni's government said in a statement his forces had started a military offensive to take back Tripoli. Thinni's government has allied itself with forces of former army general Khalifa Haftar who had declared war on Islamists in May.

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