Libya: Haftar’s forces nearing Tripoli with help of Russian forces

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) with the help of Russian forces has neared Tripoli, the centre of the country’s UN recognised government, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Sunday.

The north African country has been split between the GNA, led by Fayez al Sarraj in Tripoli and recognised by the UN, and the Tobruk government, led by General Haftar, the de facto ruler of eastern Libya and head of the LNA since 2014. Haftar launched an assault to topple the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli on April 4.

The assault on Tripoli has gained power since Russian forces have lent their support to the LNA, DW quoted Ghassan Salame, UN envoy to Libya, as telling Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Haftar’s forces over the past few months have been assisted by Russian mercenaries, and also have the backing of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“The war in the last 10 days has moved toward the residential areas of the capital,’’ Salame said.

With the addition of 100 Russian mercenaries to his army in September, Haftar, for the first time, could conceivably take Tripoli, Foreign Policy Magazine reported on Thursday.

However, this may very well come at a cost for Moscow, it said, pointing to bipartisan legislation pending in both the U.S. House and Senate that would place sanctions on the Russian contractors and their enablers over what they call a breach of Libyan sovereignty.

Salame also said that Turkey continued to provide the Tripoli government with drones and weapons.

Ankara and Libya’s Tripoli-based GNA on Nov. 27, Turkey signed a bilateral maritime agreement, securing Turkish rights over a portion of the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey has dismissed regional objection to the deal and reiterated its support for the GNA.

Haftar, through his spokesman in June, declared Turkey an enemy.

The LNA also declared Turkish ships and aircrafts “legitimate targets” for its forces and announced a ban on flights to the country.