After six years under the control of warlord Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s UN-backed government has taken over control of the al Watiya air base.

On Monday, Libya’s internationally-recognised and UN-backed Government of National Accord captured the strategic air base, al Watiya, from warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militias. 

It is a crucial advance given its key importance as an airbase in the Libyan conflict. Libya has been in an internationalised civil war since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi during the Arab Spring in 2011. It is generally accepted that the current civil war, or Second Libyan Civil War, started in 2014. 

"We proudly announce the liberation of al Watiya air base from criminal militias and terrorist mercenaries," Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj said on Twitter

“Today's victory will not be the end of the battle,” he added. 

“Instead, it brings us closer to the big victory day, the day all cities and territories of Libya are free from the project of hegemony and repression."

This is what makes al Watiya airbase so crucial:

Al Watiya air base, which was been under Khalifa Haftar’s control for six years. It is the base where the warlord launched his attacks on the UN-backed government in Tripoli in April 2019.
Al Watiya air base, which was been under Khalifa Haftar’s control for six years. It is the base where the warlord launched his attacks on the UN-backed government in Tripoli in April 2019. (Hazem Turkia / AA)
The airbase was built by the US during World War II and it has remained as one of the country’s most important facilities since its construction.
The airbase was built by the US during World War II and it has remained as one of the country’s most important facilities since its construction. (AA)
Al Watiya airbase is located southwest of the capital Tripoli and is equidistant at roughly 50km from Zintan, Zwara and Assa - which makes it difficult for enemy forces to come within its vicinity without suffering heavy human and material losses.
Al Watiya airbase is located southwest of the capital Tripoli and is equidistant at roughly 50km from Zintan, Zwara and Assa - which makes it difficult for enemy forces to come within its vicinity without suffering heavy human and material losses. (AA)
The toppled former leader of the country, Muammar Gaddafi, aimed to expand the base as part of a project to enhance Libya's regional power given that the country is located at the intersection of several migratory and trade routes in North Africa.
The toppled former leader of the country, Muammar Gaddafi, aimed to expand the base as part of a project to enhance Libya's regional power given that the country is located at the intersection of several migratory and trade routes in North Africa. (AA)
During the 2011 NATO-backed uprisings which toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the airbase was spared the chaos and destruction that befell other military installations.
During the 2011 NATO-backed uprisings which toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the airbase was spared the chaos and destruction that befell other military installations. (AA)
The GNA military spokesman Mohammed Kanunu inspects the airbase after Libya's army recaptured the base, May 18, 2020.
The GNA military spokesman Mohammed Kanunu inspects the airbase after Libya's army recaptured the base, May 18, 2020. (AA)
Source: TRT World