The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) says it has taken full control of the city of Benghazi from rival armed groups including Islamist militants.

Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army take a selfie before clashing with Islamist militants in BenghaziEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

The group's leader Khalifa Haftar – one-time commander in Muammar Gaddafi's army – launched his "Operation Dignity" in May 2014. Over the past three years his forces have clashed with militants as well as with former anti-Gaddafi rebels resisting what they saw as an attempt to reimpose autocratic rule. "Your armed forces declare to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism, a full liberation and a victory of dignity," Haftar said, in a televised speech. "Benghazi has entered into a new era of safety and peace."

Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, is pictured after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on 29 November 2016Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Parts of Benghazi have been wrecked by heavy shelling and air strikes. The city's streets are littered with debris and the shells of rusting cars. Some buildings have been destroyed and others peppered with holes from bullets and shrapnel.

Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
A tank commanded by the so-called Libyan National Army fires at an Islamist position in BenghaziEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
Destroyed buildings are seen in Benghazi after clashes between the Libyan National Army and Islamist militantsEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to Khalifa Haftar, stand in front of a damaged hotel in the Sabri districtAFP
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
A Libyan National Army tank is driven past destroyed buildings in BenghaziEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
A member of the Libyan National Army's special forces prepares to enter the last area of Benghazi held by Islamist militantsEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
A member of the Libyan National Army prepares to clash with Islamist militants in their last stronghold in BenghaziEsam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army command a tank in Benghazi's Sabri district during a military operation to retake the last remaining neighbourhood under jihadist controlAFP
Benghazi Libya Khalifa Haftar
Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army help transport an injured comrade on a make-shift wheelchairAFP

Three years ago Libya split into two broad and shifting rival alliances based in the east and west of the country, loyal to competing governments, worsening the turmoil that followed a 2011 uprising that ousted veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The LNA has gained ground in Benghazi and other parts of eastern and southern Libya while rejecting a United Nations-backed government that arrived in the capital, Tripoli, in March 2016. Haftar has backing from foreign powers including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and has cultivated closer ties with Moscow. Though weak, the UN-backed government in Tripoli retains the formal support of most Western powers.