Can Libya's strongman Khalifa Haftar capture Tripoli?, Africa News & Top Stories

Posted April 07, 2019

G7 foreign ministers warned eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar to desist from his thrust on the capital Tripoli, menacing the internationally recognized government there, or face possible global action.

Haftar, commander of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive on Thursday to take the capital, held by a UN-backed unity government and an array of militias.

By 3 pm local time on Friday, his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) had seized Azizia and Souq Khamis about 40 km away from the capital and were engaged in fighting with Tripoli militias from Qasr Ben Ghasir, 20 km south of Tripoli.

LNA spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari said five fighters from his group had been killed in clashes over the past 24 hours, but insisted that it had made "an important step forward". The UN backed government based in Tripoli has deployed additional troops to defend the capital.

The moves, supported by statements from official LNA sources that Haftar had personally given military orders for his troops to enter the city and instructed its 1.2 million inhabitants to put up white flags in their homes if they wished to stay safe, prompted widespread alarm and condemnation.

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Khalifa Haftar (left) greets United Nations secretary general António Guterres at a meeting on Friday.

Haftar's LNA said on Saturday its positions were attacked in an air strike south of Tripoli but there were no casualties. "The situation is very worrying and we can not accept a further military escalation", Maas said after a ministerial meeting held in the French seaside resort of Dinard.

Mr Guterres failed to persuade the factions to sign a ceasefire, tweeting on Friday: "I leave Libya with a heavy heart and deeply concerned".

The council "called on LNA forces to halt all military movements" and "on all forces to de-escalate military activity", said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the council's presidency.

"I still hope, if possible, to avoid armed confrontation around Tripoli", he said. - The militiamen retook the base after a "short exchange of fire", the source said April 5 on condition of anonymity.

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Reporting from the French coastal city of Dinard, where G7 foreign ministers were meeting to prepare for a grouping summit in August, FRANCE 24's Robert Parsons said there appeared to be unity amongst the global community on the need to make sure Haftar "toes the line".

The advance by Haftar's forces on Thursday, which came as the United Nations prepares to convene a conference later this month on holding delayed elections, prompted visiting UN chief Guterres to voice his "deep concern".

Just a single armoured vehicle was seen; the allegiance of its occupants was not immediately clear.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.

The coastal capital Tripoli is the ultimate prize for Haftar's eastern parallel government.

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Haftar told Bogdanov about what he described as efforts to fight terrorists in Libya, including near Tripoli, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.