Monday, 22 April, 2019

East Libyan troops close on Tripoli, clashes near former airport

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

Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar must heed worldwide warnings to halt his advance on Libya's capital, Italy's foreign minister said, as powers from the G7 club said there could be no military solution to the country's power struggle.

Fighters from the coastal city of Misrata, which is fiercely opposed to Haftar, had also mobilised to protect the capital.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held a phone call on Friday with Haftar and reiterated Moscow's position that it supports a political solution to the crisis in the country.

Haftar said "the time has come" to take Tripoli in an audio message released on Thursday, pledging to spare civilians and "state institutions".

Saturday's aerial assault came a day after Hifter's forces clashed with militias aligned with the United Nations and the Western-backed Government of National Accord.

Both countries have provided support to Gen Haftar.

"At this sensitive moment in Libya's transition, military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos", the statement, issued by the U.S. state department, said.

The U.N.'s conference of key players is set to draw up a "roadmap" to lead Libya towards legislative and presidential elections.

A military source was quoted as reporting fighting in the area and two other zones by the broadcaster Al Ahrar.

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Libyan Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Qunidi, who is chief of the military intelligence loyal to Prime Minister Fayiz Al-Sarraaj, has said that General Khalifa Haftar is attacking Tripoli with Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi arms.

Guterres was deeply concerned after the meeting with Haftar who had ordered his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied troops to march on Tripoli.

Three French troops were killed in a 2016 helicopter crash in Libya while on an intelligence gathering mission for Haftar's forces.

The code name comes from the military landing strip built by Muammar Gaddafi in northern Chad where Haftar was defeated and captured by government forces in 1987 when he was fighting the Libyan leader, the Libya Herald recalls.

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

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.

The Libyan air force, which is nominally under government control, said it had targeted an area 50km (30 miles) south of the capital on Saturday morning with "intensive strikes".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres personally intervened in a bid to stop the fighting but failed Friday to convince Hifter to halt his offensive.

Hope dashed for a political resolution?

Both the Libyan National Army and the United Nations -backed government have various militias supporting them.

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