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Libyan air force conducts airstrikes against rebels in Misrata for first time

The airstrikes are the first to hit the western city of Misrata, which is held by forces in opposition to the internationally-recognized government in eastern Libya.

By Fred Lambert

MISRATA, Libya, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Libyan air force conducted airstrikes against opposition militia forces in the western city of Misrata for the first time Sunday, marking the latest clash between vying factions who have warred since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The strikes came in response to attacks Saturday on oil ports in Sidra and Ras Lanuf by militants of the Libya Dawn movement, which is based in western Libya. The Libyan air force issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the militants, and renewed assaults in Sidra on Sunday prompted the bombing of Misrata, where many Libya Dawn militants are based.

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A source on the ground in the city reportedly confirmed the airstrikes to the BBC, adding that no material damage or casualties had been sustained and that morale among the militants was high.

The weekend fighting follows a Christmas Day attack on a power plant in Sirte, in which Libya Dawn militants killed 19 government soldiers.

The current violence in Libya stems from the aftermath of Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow in 2011. Groups who worked toward Gaddafi's removal fell into in-fighting after the Arab Spring, with an internationally-recognized government residing in eastern Libya and Islamic militias controlling the west of the country and setting up their own government, which is not internationally recognized.

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Airstrikes conducted by the United Arab Emirates with Egyptian support against militia targets in the western city of Tripoli in August indicated the possibility of a proxy war, with UAE and Egypt supporting the government in eastern Libya and Qatar and Turkey supporting Islamic militias in the country's west.

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