Thursday, 09 April, 2020

Libya declares mobilization to face Haftar's forces

A member of the LNA fires a weapon during clashes with militants in Khreibish district in Benghazi Libya A member of the LNA fires a weapon during clashes with militants in Khreibish district in Benghazi Libya
Deanna Wagner | 04 April, 2019, 23:29

Libya has been embroiled in a severe political crisis since National Transitional Council forces, supported by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, murdered the country's former head, Muammar Gaddafi.

Calling the move "provocative", the government said in a statement that it did not help achieve consensus, but discouraged Libyans and disgraced all the parties.

In the evening the first clashes were reported near Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli between the LNA and forces allied to Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, who relied on patches of armed groups with flexible loyalties.

Eastern Libyan forces on Thursday took full control of Gharyan, a town about 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital Tripoli, bringing their conflict with Libya's internationally recognised government to a potentially unsafe new level.

The internationally recognised and UN-backed government in Tripoli said it had put its forces on high alert.

The account was disputed by some witnesses who said LNA troops had bypassed the town rather than enter it.

TRIPOLI- The U.N. secretary-general appealed on Thursday for restraint from rival factions in Libya as forces from the east of the country moved to within 100 km (60 miles) of the capital Tripoli.

"I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation", Guterres said in a Twitter post on Thursday.

"I am sipping coffee now in Gharyan", Hifter's top aide Abdel-Salam al-Hassi told The Associated Press over the phone.

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The European Union's mission to Libya on Thursday also expressed concern over "the military buildup underway in Libya and the escalatory rhetoric which seriously risks leading to an uncontrollable confrontation".

Some of Haftar's supporters have called the United Nations efforts a waste of time, urging him to carry out a military solution to establish himself as national army commander.

The conference is supposed to generate an agreement on elections in order to resolve the Libyan crisis that has been going on in fits and starts since the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for "calm and restraint" amid ongoing violence in Libya.

The UN is holding a conference this month in the southwestern city of Ghadames to discuss a political solution to prepare the country for long-delayed elections and to avoid a military showdown.

The two sides fought skirmishes on Wednesday but these had ceased, town mayor Yousef al-Bdairi said.

Haftar enjoys the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see him as bulwark against Islamists. His opponents see in him as a new Gaddafi.

A town resident told Reuters: "The town now is under control of the army who came from the east and I can see their vehicles with their Libyan National Army logo".

He did not make clear whether there were plans to advance on the capital itself.