May 18 (UPI) -- Libyan government forces said Monday they captured a key air base near the country's border with Tunisia as they continued a push against militias loyal to rebel Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar.
The Government of National Accord spokesman Mohamed Gnunu said its troops had taken over the entire al-Watiya air base, 16 miles from the Tunisian border. The victory was part of a counteroffensive that started in April in an effort to drive Haftar loyalists out of Libya's west coast.
Haftar attempted to take the country's capital of Tripoli in April 2019 but more than 1,000 have died as his push stalled. Haftar's forces had been in control of the air base since 2014 and had launched numerous attacks from the site.
Libya, one of the world's top oil producers, has been bogged down in violence since 2011 after longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled.
While the United Nations recognizes the GNA as Libya's rightful government, Turkey defied a Libyan arms embargo by signing a weapons-for-energy treaty last November. Since, Turkey has provided the GNA with military weapons and assistance in exchange for access to its Mediterranean gas fields.
Haftar and his loyalists -- backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia -- continue to control eastern Libyan oil terminals and have essentially blocked its petroleum exports.