A poster of the Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar is seen on a building destroyed by the war in the city of Benghazi [File: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]

Military forces in eastern Libya loyal to powerful General Khalifa Haftar said they have moved towards the western part of the country, where the capital Tripoli is controlled by a rival government backed by the United Nations.

The operation, ordered by Haftar on Wednesday, is aimed at “cleansing the western zone from terrorist groups,” the forces’ media centre said in a statement.

“The military units confirm its keenness to protect citizens’ safety and public properties of the Libyan state,” the statement said without elaborating.

The deployment is likely to alarm the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, where Prime

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