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Two commanders allied to Libya's Haftar killed in drone strike near Tripoli

Strike is blow to Haftar's eastern-based LNA, which in April launched campaign to take Tripoli that has since bogged down
Fighter loyal to GNA fires truck-mounted gun during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in suburb of capital Tripoli earlier this week (AFP)

Two commanders of the eastern Libyan forces trying to take the capital Tripoli from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) were killed late on Friday in a drone strike, officials said.

The strike was a blow to Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA), which in April launched a campaign to take Tripoli. So far that offensive has not breached the city's southern defences, Reuters said.

The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA offensive.

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders - Mohsen al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade - died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.

Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA, whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.

Libya has been in turmoil since the rule of Muammar Gaddafi was brought to an end in 2011.

Last week, Germany announced plans for a UN-backed conference on the future of Libya in an attempt to force the many regional actors to stop funding and arming the country's warring sides.

Still, Haftar's forces last Saturday ruled out a UN call to return to the negotiating table, with his spokesman saying a military solution was the best way to resolve the conflict.

"The battle is in its final phases," LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari had told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates, one of Haftar's foreign backers, AFP said.

The LNA is backed by Egypt and the UAE, while Turkey supports forces allied to the Tripoli government.