Haftar’s men press on with Tripoli offensive despite calls for calm

07 April, 2019, 16:18 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • A spokesman said eastern Libyan forces seized the Tripoli International Airport seen from the front on Friday

Haftar ordered his Libyan National Army (LNA) to advance on Tripoli on Thursday, following years of rivalry with the UN-recognized government.

European Union foreign ministers on Saturday upped pressure on Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to halt his offensive on Tripoli.

The UN Security Council on Friday called on Haftar to halt his advance on Tripoli, warning the military move was putting Libya's stability at risk.

In December Haftar met Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj from the UN-backed government at a conference but refused to attend official talks.

Ahmed al-Mesmari, spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army lead by General Hifter, said 14 troops were killed since General Hifter declared the offensive.

Fighting is going on near the former global airport, which the Libyan National Army (LNA) force, led by Khalifa Haftar, controlled by Friday night.

On April 4, Haftar announced the launch of an offensive on Tripoli.

Pro-government forces from the coastal town of Zawiya battled them, retook the base and captured more than 100 of Haftar's men.

Hafter's media office said in a post online that they took full control of the Tripoli worldwide airport and were working to secure the facility.

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Perhaps there could be personal sanctions directed against Haftar, perhaps efforts could be made to dry up the supply of weapons to the forces under his control, many of which come across the border from Egypt.

US Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, said its mission in Libya involves "military support to diplomatic missions, counterterrorism activities, enhancing partnerships and improving security across the region".

Haftar, who has seized much of eastern Libya, backs a rival administration and has repeatedly vowed to seize Tripoli and "cleanse" it of "terrorists and mercenaries". Cairo has been one of Haftar's strongest supporters.

The warplanes bombed positions of Hifter's self-described Libyan National Army, prompting the warlord to declare that his forces would shoot down any aircraft flying over western Libya, local media reported.

"I am leaving Libya with heavy heart and deep concern", he told reporters at the airport shortly after meeting with Haftar.

Hifter, leader of the self-styled Libya National Army, has deployed his forces to seize Tripoli, the seat of Libya's United Nations -backed government, sparking fears of a major showdown with rival militias.

"With Juan Guaido being stripped of his immunity. we don't want the situation to escalate", German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Dinard on Saturday.

On Friday, they were also pushed back from a key checkpoint west of the capital, less than 24 hours after seizing it in their lightning offensive towards Tripoli.

The EU, for instance, is making strenuous efforts to ensure that the USA is seen to be telling Haftar to back off, and to tell his three principle external supporters - Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - to do the same.

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