SAT 30 - 5 - 2020
Date: Jul 1, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Air traffic stops at Libya's Tripoli Mitiga airport after air strike
Haftar vows attacks on Turkish assets in Libya
CAIRO: Air traffic was halted Sunday at the Libyan capital's only functioning airport, Mitiga, after an air strike, according to a post on the airport authorities' Facebook page.

No further details were given. Tripoli has been under attack for three months by the eastern-based Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar vows attacks on Turkish assets in Libya

Agence France Presse
BENGHAZI, Libya: Strongman Khalifa Haftar has threatened to attack Turkish interests in Libya after suffering a serious setback in his push to take the capital Tripoli, accusing Ankara of backing his rivals.

Anti-Haftar forces supporting Libya's internationally recognized government announced Wednesday they had retaken the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack, seizing the main supply base for Haftar's months-long offensive.

Haftar on Saturday promised a "tough response" and accused militias backing the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord of executing his wounded troops at the town's hospital – allegations refuted by both the GNA and authorities in Gharyan.

Dozens of pro-Haftar fighters were killed in the clashes some 100 kilometers south of the capital and at least 18 taken prisoner, a GNA spokesperson said.

AFP correspondents who toured Gharyan were shown signs of the hasty retreat of Haftar's forces, who left behind their wounded, a command post, arms, ammunition – and even food burning on stoves.

"The speed [of the attack], the surprise element and the revolt [of local residents] sowed fear" in the ranks of Haftar's fighters, General Ahmad Bouchahma, a senior GNA officer, said on a tour of the area.

Among the weaponry the GNA says it seized were U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles packed in wooden crates marked "armed forces of the United Arab Emirates." The UAE backs Haftar.

In retaliation for the setback, Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to target Turkish ships and companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in the country, his spokesman said.

General Ahmed al-Mesmari accused Ankara of "directly" intervening in the battle "with its soldiers, planes and ships".

He accused Turkey of assisting GNA forces in seizing Gharyan, including providing air cover, and accused the town's residents of "treason."

The LNA, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country's south, seized Gharyan on April 2, and two days later launched its offensive on Tripoli.

But their initial lightning advance was quickly brought to a standstill in Tripoli's southern outskirts as militias backing the GNA rushed to defend the capital.

Both sides accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and receiving military support from external powers, despite a U.N. arms embargo on Libya that has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew Moammar Kadhafi's regime.

Haftar has the backing of the UAE and Egypt and accuses Turkey and Qatar of supporting the GNA.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country's support for the GNA, saying Ankara was providing weapons to Tripoli under a "military cooperation agreement."

He told reporters on June 19 the Turkish backing had allowed Tripoli to "rebalance" the fight against Haftar.

On Saturday, Erdogan, speaking on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan, said he did not have "any information" concerning Haftar's threat against Turkish assets.

"If there is an order like this from Haftar, my colleagues will study (it). We have already taken the necessary measures regarding this anyway, and after this, we will take much more different measures," he said.

Since the fall of Gharyan, Haftar's forces have carried out several air raids on Tripoli as GNA fighters push to keep up pressure on the LNA.

On Friday, GNA militias claimed they launched another successful offensive, this time in Esbiaa, more than 40 kilometers south of Tripoli.

But Mesmari said the attack was repulsed after a "very violent battle."

Mesmari said orders had been given to the LNA "air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters."

"Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state [in Libya] are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces," he added.

"All Turkish nationals on Libyan territory will be arrested," he said, and "all flights to and from Turkey will be banned."

Regular flights to Turkey operate from Tripoli's Mitiga airport and a second airport in the western city of Misrata, where forces back the GNA.

Mesmari did not explain how the flight ban could apply to areas not under Haftar's control.

Turkey says 6 nationals held in Libya, vows to respond

Agence France Presse
ISTANBUL: Turkey said Sunday that six of its nationals were being held by a Libyan force and vowed to respond to any attacks on its vessels or interests.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement it would consider Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter's "illegal militia forces" to be "legitimate targets" if the Turks are not released.

Earlier, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said there would be "heavy" consequences to any "hostile attitude or attacks."

His comments came after a spokesman for Hifter's self-styled Libyan National Army called Turkish assets in Libya "legitimate targets," accusing Turkey of helping rival militias allied with the U.N.-supported government. Hifter's forces have received aid from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.

Akar said Turkey was in Libya to support "regional peace and stability." His comments were carried by the official Anadolu news agency.

The LNA controls much of eastern and southern Libya. In April it launched an offensive against Tripoli, where a weak, U.N.-aligned government is based.

Authorities in areas under Hifter's control asked Turkish nationals to leave the country.

Libya's parliament, which is based in the east and allied with Hifter's forces, barred all ministries, state institutions and banks from dealing with Turkish companies and ordered a ban on Turkish exports.

Restaurants in the eastern city of Benghazi have started to change out Turkish names to avoid reprisal. A popular restaurant in the city, where Hifter's forces are based, announced that it would change its name "in solidarity with our beloved country," referring to Libya.

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