Commander threatens to target Turkish forces in Libya
CAIRO (AP) - A Libyan commander who launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli by the US-recognized rival government last year threatened violence against Turkish troops on Thursday if Ankara doesn't stop engaging in the war meddling affected North African country.
Khalifa Hifter's comments came in response to the decision by the Turkish parliament to extend a law allowing Turkish troops to enter Libya for 18 months. Turkish military aid to the Tripoli-based government - including advisors, equipment and intelligence agencies - helped stop Hifter's year-long offensive against the capital. Turkey was also accused of sending thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Libya.
"There will be no security or peace as long as the boots of the Turkish military desecrate our pristine soil," Hifter said in comments from his eastern fortress Benghazi on the 69th anniversary of Libya's Independence Day. "We will bear arms. Bring peace with our own hands and free will."
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Libya fell into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed the long-time dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and one in the west. The Western government is known as the National Convention Government and is officially recognized by the United States.
Hifter was allied with the Eastern government, while Turkey supported the GNA.
The decision by the Turkish legislature came on Tuesday, despite the declaration of a US-brokered ceasefire in Libya in October. The ceasefire agreement provided for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries within three months.
"The colonizing enemy has two options: either to leave peacefully or to be evicted by force," said Hifter, referring to Turkey.
The United States Assistance Mission in Libya took the same national opportunity to urge Libyan rivals to honor the ceasefire and adhere to a political roadmap that calls for national elections to be held in December 2021.
“As the Mission calls upon Libyans to consolidate their efforts and take bold steps towards national reconciliation and look forward to a bright future for all Libyans to live in peace and prosperity, it reaffirms their full commitment to the Libyan people support in building their own unified state, ”read an UNSMIL statement published on Thursday.
Earlier this month, 75 Libyan politicians from opposing camps practically convened in a US-initiated political forum and agreed to hold elections next year. However, they failed to break a dead end in the selection mechanism for the transitional government that would rule the country ahead of the vote.
"A weak ceasefire remains in Libya between forces allied with the Tripoli government and their rivals in the east," said a comment published on Thursday by The International Crisis Group. "However, there is cause for concern that the five-month break will be taken." the conflict could end abruptly. "
In the past few weeks, both governments have exchanged allegations against the ceasefire agreement provisions by continuing to mobilize their troops near the frontline and receiving military support from their respective regional supporters.
During his campaign to take Tripoli, which collapsed in June, Hifter was supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia. According to an expert report from the United States, Russia has backed Hifter's forces with military equipment and private armed activists. In addition to Turkey, the government of Tripoli has enjoyed the support of Italy and Qatar.
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