Haftar forces hit Libya pro-government airbase - GulfToday

Haftar forces hit Libya pro-government airbase


A member of the Libyan internationally recognised government forces is seen during a fight with Eastern forces in southern Tripoli. Reuters

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar said they launched air strikes early on Tuesday against an airbase in third city Misrata held by government loyalists.

“Our air force carried out several raids against the Misrata airbase, targeting anti-air defences as well as a Turkish aircraft transporting ammunition, drones and missiles,” Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Pro-Haftar television channel Libya Al-Hadath said a Turkish Ilyushin aircraft “was destroyed as it landed at the Misrata base”.

It aired footage, which could not be independently verified, of the alleged strikes.

Forces loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) did not immediately confirm or deny the reported attack.

Haftar forces launched an offensive in April to wrest Tripoli from the GNA.

Many of the government’s best equipped and most seasoned fighters come from Misrata, which is east of the Libyan capital.

Tuesday’s air strikes came a day after the GNA and a local official reported the death of at least 42 people in a raid targeting a town hall meeting in southern Libya.

Dozens more were wounded in Sunday night’s attack which the GNA said was carried out by Haftar forces.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has repeatedly denounced an escalation of violence between the two camps and called for negotiations.

Last week he proposed a ceasefire for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha due to start on August 10.

The Tripoli government opposing Haftar said dozens were killed and wounded in Murzuq.

“The air strike resulted in 43 killed and 51 wounded. This is only an initial toll of casualties,” Murzuq municipal council member Mohamed Omar told reporters in a phone interview.

He said the done strike had targeted a town hall meeting where residents were holding discussions after days of clashes between rival tribesmen.

The LNA seized Murzuq at the start of this year as part of an offensive to control the oil-producing south. It later moved out to concentrate forces north where it has been trying to take the capital Tripoli in a four-month campaign.

The LNA said in a statement its strike had targeted “Chadian opposition fighters,” a phrase that usually refers to Tebu tribesmen opposing them in the area.

Haftar’s LNA, allied to a parallel government based in eastern Libya, has seen its advance on Tripoli held up by robust defences on the outskirts of the capital, and said it would start heavy air strikes after “traditional means” of war had been exhausted.

The European Union said in a statement that the Murzuq strike had “claimed the lives of civilians” and those committing war crimes needed to be brought to justice. But it did not mention the LNA.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement issued a day after the strikes that it was “extremely concerned by reports on the continuation of acts of violence in Murzuq, including a number of air strikes.” It did not mention the LNA.

Haftar’s attempt to capture Tripoli has derailed U.N. attempts to broker an end to the chaos that has prevailed in Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammer Qadhafi.

The World Health Organization says the battle for Tripoli has left nearly 1,100 people dead and wounded more than 5,750, while forcing more than 100,000 civilians to flee their homes.

The European Union called Friday on Libya’s warring sides to establish a permanent truce and return to UN-led talks to prepare for quick elections.

Nearly 1,100 people have been reported killed since military strongman Haftar, based in eastern Libya, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli on April 4.

“The European Union and its member states are united in demanding that all Libyan parties commit to a permanent ceasefire,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

The EU also urged the parties to return to a UN-brokered political process, Mogherini said in a statement issued in Brussels while she met ASEAN foreign ministers in Bangkok.

The EU and its 28 countries, she said, welcome UN envoy Ghassan Salame’s ceasefire proposal for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday as well as his call to relaunch negotiations.


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