The final enclaves controlled by local jihadist fighters in Benghazi are in Sabri and Souq al-Hout, in the centre of the city. The Libyan National Army (LNA) has started to build-up its forces in preparation to launch a ‘final’ assault against the jihadists, beginning with intensive airstrikes against their positions every day last week. On 20 April, jihadists in Sabri and Souq al-Hout blew up a bridge providing access to the area in attempt to reinforce their positions against an LNA assault. The first LNA advance into Sabri was made on 21 April, where LNA fighters briefly clashed with the jihadists.
The jihadists also began shelling LNA positions in residential districts, with shells hitting the Sidi Faraj area on 21 April. Two people were killed and one injured on 22 April when a mortar round landed in the Guiliana district. The attack was most likely launched from Souq al-Hout or from a mobile position, targeting the LNA’s naval headquarters beside the Guiliana bridge.
In an intelligence operation last week the LNA arrested Hamza Mustafa al-Shelwi, one of the leaders of the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC), in addition to Abdussalam Layas, who is reported to be a former ISIS member. Al-Shelwi was imprisoned by the Qadhafi regime in 2008, accused of facilitating the travel of jihadists to Iraq to fight with al-Qaeda. He was released in March 2010 and was amongst those who formed the Abu Salim Martyrs brigade at the outset of the 2011 uprisings. He is reportedly the DMSC’s point man for finance. On 18 and 19 April, the LNA also targeted DMSC positions south of the city with airstrikes.