Fighters loyal to the internationally-recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) take a rest near their weapons in the al-Sawani area during clashes with forces loyal to Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar, June 19, 2019.
Fighters loyal to the internationally-recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) take a rest near their weapons in the al-Sawani area during clashes with forces loyal to Libya strongman Khalifa Haftar, June 19, 2019.

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government claim they have seized a key town south of Tripoli from forces from a rival eastern-based government.

Officials with Prime Minister's Fayez al-Sarraj's Government of National Accord said Wednesday that they took over Gharyan in a surprise attack from forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar's army had set up offices in the town, which also is home to field hospitals and a helicopter base. 

Haftar's forces said there was fighting in Gharyan but did not concede defeat.

Fighting between the two armies has been centered in the suburbs south of Tripoli for several months, with neither side making much progress. But the clashes have driven thousands of civilians from their homes or to government-run shelters.

Libya has been in constant chaos since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011. 

Al-Sarraj has been struggling to assert authority while Haftar looks to take power. The turmoil has given extremist groups, such as Islamic State, the opportunity to entrench themselves in Libya.

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