TRIPOLI, April 20 -- Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Libya's capital, Tripoli, on Friday after US President Donald Trump praised Libya's Khalifa Haftar amid a military assault by the renegade general to seize the capital.
A White House statement said Trump and Haftar spoke by phone on Monday "to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts to achieve peace and stability in Libya". On April 4, Haftar and his forces launched an offensive against the country's internationally recognised government, which is based in Tripoli. In their phone call, Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system." It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call. Trump's praise for Haftar was seen in Tripoli as a reversal in US policy on Libya, as earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded an immediate halt to Haftar's offensive.
Reports from Tripoli, said news of the conversation caused anger in the capital with residents perceiving the call as a show of support by Trump for Haftar's offensive. "People are very angry, thousands of people have come out here on the main streets and squares especially in Tripoli and they are calling on the international community to stop the military aggression by Haftar forces," he said. At least 2,000 people took part in Friday's protest in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square to protest the push on Tripoli by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). Abdelrizaq Musheirib, a protester criticised Trump's call to the commander, telling Reuters news agency: "The call has no meaning but we will respond to it." The LNA launched the military campaign against Tripoli on April 4, saying it wanted to "cleanse" the country's western region of "remaining terrorist groups". Analysts say the offensive is threatening to reignite a full-blown civil war in the oil-rich country, which has been mired in chaos since the NATO-backed toppling of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The fighting on the outskirts of the city has killed at least 213 people and wounded more than 1,000 people, the World Health Organization said on Friday. More than 25,000 have been displaced, according to the United Nations. Haftar backs a rival administration in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the authority of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
TRIPOLI, April 17 -- At least two people were killed and eight more injured in shelling of Libya's capital Tripoli on Tuesday evening, Reuters reported citing Tripoli's emergencies services.
AFP earlier reported that shelling could be heard late on Tuesday in parts of Tripoli, and several powerful explosions were heard across the city. Thick smoke was seen rising in several parts of the city. Currently, there are two governments in Libya: Tripoli’s Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and recognized by the international community and the interim Cabinet of Abdullah Al-Thani who is acting in the country’s east together with the elected parliament and supported by the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
On April 4, Haftar announced the launch of an offensive on Tripoli. Meanwhile, Sarraj ordered all military units subordinate to him to brace for a defensive operation. On April 16, the World Health Organization said that at least 174 people were killed and another 756 injured in Tripoli.
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, April 8 -- Eastern Libyan forces tried to push toward the center of Tripoli on Monday after their easy desert advance hit a tougher urban phase, with deaths and displacements mounting despite Western appeals for a truce and a return to a peace plan.
Renewed war in Libya - splintered since Muammar Gaddafi’s 2011 fall - threatens to disrupt oil and gas supplies, trigger more migration to Europe, and wreck U.N. hopes for an election. The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar, a former officer in Gaddafi’s army, said 19 of their soldiers had died in recent days as they closed in on the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.
The United Nations said 2,800 people had been displaced by clashes and many more could flee, though some were trapped. The LNA has conducted air strikes on the south of the city as it seeks to advance into the center from a disused airport. But the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj has armed groups arriving from nearby Misrata to help block the LNA. It reported 11 deaths without saying on which side. Al-Serraj, 59, who comes from a wealthy business family, has run the Tripoli government since 2016 as part of a U.N.-brokered deal boycotted by Haftar.
His LNA, allied with a parallel eastern administration based in Benghazi, took the oil-rich south of Libya earlier this year before its surprisingly fast push toward the coastal capital. While that advance was straightforward through sparsely populated areas, taking Tripoli is a far bigger challenge. The violence has thrown into disarray a U.N. plan for an April 14-16 conference to plan elections as a way out of the anarchy that has gripped Libya since the Western-backed toppling of Gaddafi eight years ago. The European Union joined the United Nations, United States and G7 bloc in calling for a ceasefire, a halt to Haftar’s advance and return to political negotiations.
WASHINGTON, April 7 -- The United States said Sunday it has temporarily withdrawn some of its forces from Libya due to "security conditions on the ground", as a Libyan military commander's forces advanced toward the capital, Tripoli, clashing with rival militias.
A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities. "The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command. "Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy." He did not provide details on the number of US troops that have been withdrawn or on how many remain inside the country. The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise offensive against the capital last week, a move that could potentially drag the country back into civil war. Libya has been gripped by unrest since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and in recent years has been governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various armed groups.
Fighting was underway Sunday at the international airport, some 24 kilometres from central Tripoli, after Hifter claimed to have seized the area. The airport was destroyed in a previous bout of militia fighting in 2014. Hifter said his forces had launched airstrikes targeting rival militias on the outskirts of Tripoli. The rival militias, which are affiliated with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, said they had also carried out airstrikes, slowing Hifter's advance. At least 23 people, including civilians, have been killed on both sides since Thursday.