Haftar assembling hundreds of mercenaries near Libya's Sirte, claims UN-backed government

Haftar assembling hundreds of mercenaries near Libya's Sirte, claims UN-backed government
2 min read
30 August, 2020
Haftar's forces are gathering hundreds of foreign fighters and equipment in central Libya, indicating an offensive on Sirte is imminent, in violation of this month's ceasefire agreement
Forces loyal to Haftar travel to Sirte in preparation for an offensive in June [Getty]
Khalifa Haftar, the warlord presiding over eastern Libya, is gathering hundreds of foreign mercenaries and equipment near the town of Houn in central Libya, indicating that an offensive may be imminent, the spokesman for the army of the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) said on Saturday.

The GNA army's intelligence unit identified armed convoys gathering at three different sites in Houn, 300 kilometres south of the city of Sirte, spokesman Mohammed Qanunu said in a series of tweets.

The two warring parties have been battling for the strategic city of Sirte for months.

Read also: Libya ceasefire: Window of opportunity or doomed to fail?

The convoys are believed to include mercenaries from Syria, Yemen, Sudan's notorious Janjaweed militia, and Russia's Wagner group.

One hundred and twelve armed vehicles were identified, as well as ammunition supplies and technical support vehicles, said Qanunu.

Hundreds more mercenaries from Chad and Sudan have been taken to a training camp in Zillah, 150 kilometres east of Houn, Qanunu added.

Haftar's forces have established checkpoints from eastern Sirte south to the Al-Jufrah air base near Houn, all the way to the town of Sabha.

The GNA intelligence spotted 70 armed vehicles and ammunition carriers belonging to the Janjaweed militia arriving in Houn on Saturday.

Qanunu said that all ground and air units were preparing to respond to an imminent offensive.

"We did not start this battle, but we are the ones who will determine the time and place of its end," he said.

Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 to capture Tripoli from GNA forces. After reaching the southern outskirts of the capital, Haftar's forces have been pushed back after a series of defeats in recent months.

A fragile ceasefire is currently holding in the war-torn country. 

The ceasefire was announced on 21 August in a bid to prevent a battle over Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil export terminals.

Both sides called for demilitarising the city as well as the Jufra area in central Libya, and for a joint police force to be responsible for security there.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected