Warlord Haftar attacks key western Libyan city, violating ceasefire

Warlord Haftar attacks key western Libyan city, violating ceasefire
3 min read
26 January, 2020
Forces loyal to Haftar have resumed their attempt to seize control of Misrata, while continuing to attack civilian areas around Tripoli, under siege since April last year.
Government forces repelled an advance by Haftar's self-styled LNA forces [Getty]
A Morrocan national was killed and several others injured on Saturday evening after forces loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar launched rockets into civillian areas west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Government forces repelled an advance by Haftar's self-styled LNA into the village of Abu Qurayn on Sunday, part of the millitia's push to seize control over Masrata, the major urban centre northwest of the country, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site reported.

Photographs circulating on social media purport to show damaged equipment and vehicles belonging to the LNA in the hands government forces. 

Clashes around the villages of Al-Qaddahiya and Zamzam, located south of Abu Qurayn, are ongoing as of Sunday afternoon, as the LNA continue to erode a crumbling ceasefire agreement brokered earlier this month.

A spokesman for forces allied with the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), Mohamed Gnounou, said in a statement posted online that Haftar's repeated violations rendered the joint Turkish and Russian cease-fire "useless". 

Diversion tactics

Misrata is Libya's second largest city and is a stronghold for GNA-allied groups resisting Haftar, who also play a pivotal role in defending the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Forces loyal to the rogue warlord have laid seige to Tripoli since April 2011.

Jalel Harchoaui, a Libya expert at The Netherlands Institute of International Relations who spoke to AP, sees the plans to seize Misrata as a diversion tactic aimed at drawing GNA-allied groups based Tripoli back to their hometown, weaking the capital's defenses and rendering the city vulnerable to a final assault.

Only last month, Haftar forces captured Sirte, located 370 kilometers east of Tripoli, in what was a major blow to the Tripoli-based administration.

Sunday's clashes came hours after the United Nations slammed several countries for their "continued blatant violations" of an arms embargo on Libya, which fly in the face of recent pledges made by world powers at an international conference in Berlin, held last week.

The United National Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed dismay at the number of flights that had landed in Libyan airports over the last 10 days, providing millitiamen with "advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters".

Read more: UN slams Libya arms embargo violations despite Berlin pledges 

Libya remains divided between two rival government based in its east and west, which are both supported by various armed millitias and foreign backers.

Turkey and Qatar support the Tripoli-based GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, whil rival forces in east loyal to Haftar receive support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, in addition to France and Russia. 

Turkey has deployed troops inside the country, but Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan maintains that the detachment consists of military "trainers and educators", and not a combat force.

Hundreds of Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have also joined the fight alongside the Tripoli-based government, according the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right, which tracks Syria'a civil war.

Russian mercenaries, linked to the notorious Wagner Group, have support Haftar's advance on Tripoli.

UN experts believe that Sudanese armed groups from Darfur have also assist the rogue general in peripheral roles, such as in July last year, when Sudanese paramilitaries were sent to protect oil infrastructure east of the country.

Earlier this month, powerful tribal groups loyal to Hifter also seized several large oil export terminals along the eastern coast as well as southern oil fields.

The closure of Libya's major oil fields and production facilities has resulted in losses of more than $255 million in the six-day period ending Jan. 23, the country´s national oil company said on Saturday.

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