TRIPOLI, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- General Osama Joueili, commander of the western military zone of the UN-backed government, confirmed on Friday that a military operation to combat smuggling has been launched in western Libya.
"The clashes taking place at the moment are between a military force of the western military zone and armed groups that controls the coastal road leading to the Tunisian border," Joueili told Xinhua.
"The western military zone forces are currently implementing the first phase of a security plan by enabling the official authorities to take control of the coastal road to ensure smooth and safe passage of people," Joueili added.
He also said the operation came as a response to the continuous unrest and smuggling in the area, demanding "all parties to cooperate so the clashes would not spread further."
Joueili pointed out that orders have been issued to immediately close the Tunisian border, pending organization of security work at the border and the road leading to it.
The military operation began Friday dawn in the western town of Abu-Kammash, some 140 km west to the capital Tripoli, and the nearby Tunisian border, according to a military source.
Armed militias take advantage of the state of insecurity and chaos in the country, mainly the western region, to smuggle illegal immigrants and large amounts of fuel through the Mediterranean towards European shores.
Libyan navy attacked smuggling networks at sea several times and destroyed fuel smuggling vessels and bulldozers off the coast of Zuwara in the west.