CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.
Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”
“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.
“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.
The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.
The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.
On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.
The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said.
In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.
“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.
Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.