Sunday, 20 October 2019

High alert in Tripoli after renegade leader orders advance

Reuters © Isamil Zitouny

TRIPOLI: Libya’s internationally-backed government is deploying forces in and around the capital, Tripoli, after renegade General Khalifa Haftar on Thursday ordered his eastern military forces to advance on the city, sparking fears of a major showdown with rival militias.

The UN Security Council has called for an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the escalation in Libya’s years-long power struggle, as a number of foreign powers urged restraint.

Earlier on Friday, the private news agency reported that some troops of Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) were pushed back from a security barrier by a militia in Zawiya, fewer than 30km from the capital.

On Thursday, Haftar’s forces took over Gharyan, a town 100km south of Tripoli. In an audio recording posted on the LNA’s media office Facebook page, Haftar described his forces’ move as a “victorious march” to “shake the lands under the feet of the unjust bunch”. “We are coming Tripoli, we are coming,” he said.

The oil-rich country, which has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed removal of its long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has at least two rival administrations: the internationally-recognised government based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj; and another in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is allied with Haftar.

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