Hundreds of Russian, Syrian mercenaries withdraw from Libya's front lines after Haftar losses

Hundreds of Russian, Syrian mercenaries withdraw from Libya's front lines after Haftar losses
Foreign mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar's forces have been flown away from the front lines after the rogue general suffered major losses in the battle for Tripoli.
2 min read
25 May, 2020
Russian, Syrian and Sudanese mercenaries are allegedly deployed alongside Haftar's forces [Getty]
More than 1,000 Russian and Syrian mercenaries have pulled back from the frontlines of the battle for Libya's capital Tripoli, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

The foreign mercenaries fighting alongside rogue General Khalifa Haftar have withdrawn to central Libya after a Turkish military intervention helped the internationally-recoginised government in Tripoli make important gains in recent weeks, including seizing the strategic al-Watiya airbase.

The total number of foreign fighters working alongside Haftar's forces is not known but previous reports indicate thousands are fighting on both sides of the conflict.

Around 1,500 Russian and Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Bani Walid, around 180 kilometres (112 miles) from the capital, and from there flown to Haftar's Juffra airbase in central Libya, the town's mayor told Bloomberg.

Mercenaries are still arriving in Bani Walid, which wants to remain neutral in the war and opposes the presence of foreign fighters, said Mayor Salem Alaywan.

Read more: In Libya, Russia calls in its proxy, Assad

The reason behind the mercenaries' withdrawal is not clear but comes after Haftar issued a renewed call to arms on Saturday to fight Turkey's "colonial" intervention in support of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Also on Saturday, US President Donald Trump held a phone call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where he called for "a rapid de-escalation" of the conflict in Libya.

The two leaders conversed following the ousting of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) from its only western-Libya airbase and several strategic towns.

Analysts have said a renewed arms race by the Libyan forces could enable both sides' foreign backers to restart ceasefire negotiations.

International efforts to halt the hostilties failed earlier this year.

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