Libya’s Haftar announces ‘decisive battle’ for Tripoli

The fighting in Libya has displaced some 146,000 people. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Libya’s Haftar announces ‘decisive battle’ for Tripoli

  • Dressed in military uniform, he announced “the decisive battle and the advance on the heart of Tripoli”
  • Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj called on Libyans to rally around him in the defense of the nation

TRIPOLI: Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a “decisive battle” for the capital Tripoli on Thursday, eight months after he launched an offensive to wrest it from the government.

“Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan,” he said in a speech aired by the Al-Hadath channel.

Dressed in military uniform, he announced “the decisive battle and the advance on the heart of Tripoli.” Now move forward, “each to his own goal,” he ordered his troops.

Since the fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed uprising, Libya has been torn apart by violence between multiple armed groups, many of them backed by foreign powers.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which controls much of the country’s east, launched an assault on April 4 to seize Tripoli from the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar says the GNA is backed by “terrorist” groups.

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Since the fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed uprising, Libya has been torn apart by violence between multiple armed groups, many of them backed by foreign powers.

The GNA said that the situation was “under control” and that its troops were holding their positions in the capital’s south. 

“We are ready to push back any more ... attempt by the Haftar putsch leader,” said GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha on Libya Al-Ahrar television.

Haftar had foreseen a quick victory, but despite vowing in July that success was “imminent,” his forces have remained bogged down on the outskirts of the capital.

Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj called on Libyans to rally around him in the defense of the nation.

In a video posted on the Libyan government’s Facebook page, Sarraj dismissed Haftar’s claim about a new push as “lies” and “delusions” and said his forces have already “taught the invaders a lesson.”

“I call upon you to rally around the project of a civil state and to show faith in our right to build a state, based on institutions, the rule of law and liberties,” Sarraj said. “Libya can only end up as an oasis for freedom and democracy.”

The latest crisis comes amid heightened tension between the two warring sides after Sarraj’s government signed a security arrangement and maritime deal with Turkey last month. 

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyeb Erdogan said the agreement gives his country the right to send troops to Libya to fend off Hafter’s forces from Tripoli.

The head of the EU’s delegation for relations with Maghreb Countries, Andrea Cozzolino, said she was concerned about Hafter’s threats and warned that a new offensive would only lead “to more suffering for the Libyan civilian population, who have already paid a high price.”

At least 200 civilians and more than 2,000 fighters have been killed since the start of Haftar’s assault on Tripoli, according to the United Nations. The fighting has also displaced some 146,000 people.


Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.