New military momentum sought by LNA in western Libya
Recent operations put spotlight again on Turkish mercenaries.
TUNIS–The Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar warned of an impending military offensive aimed at regaining the initiative in western Libya by retaking positions held by forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).
“The operation aims at liberating the remainder of the homeland from Turkish aggression and allied criminal and terrorist militias”, said the LNA “war information” Facebook account late May 7.
Libyan National Army spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari, said Tripoli will be returning to the Libyan fold before long, promising “pleasant surprises very soon.”
Reports have indicated the LNA had started May 5 to send in new reinforcements to back up troops already deployed in western Libya while a fresh contingent of militants and militia members loyal to the GNA were being mobilised as part of a new phase in the ongoing showdown between both camps.
LNA forces are thought to be trying to use the momentum they have gained with the failure of the GNA troops for the second time during the last few weeks to capture Al-Wattiya airbase, some 40 kilometres from the Tunisian border. A week earlier, GNA militias had also failed to take Tarhouna.
GNA troops had moved onto Sabratha and Sorman in the western part of the country last month, but the LNA remained in control of a number of towns much further south as well as Al-Wattiya airbase.
The ongoing battles are also raising new questions about the continued role in the fighting of militants and mercenaries sent by Turkey to boost the military fortunes of the Islamist-backed GNA government. According to Mismari, “scores of Takfiris loyal to Erdogan” have been killed in the fighting.
He was referring to jihadist fighters and mercenaries reportedly dispatched by Turkey from Syria.
The opposition-affiliated Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed the mounting casualties among pro-GNA mercenaries.
“26 Turkish-backed mercenaries were killed in battles with Haftar’s forces on several frontlines in Libya, bringing the total death toll of Turkish-backed Syrian proxies who were killed in military operations in Libya to 249,” said May 2 a statement by SOHR.
“The fatalities are of the factions “al-Mu’tasim Division, Sultan Murad, Suqur Al-Shamal Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah,” it added mentioning pro-Turkish militant groups fighting in Syria.
The observatory also announced the dispatching of new mercenary recruits to Libya. “According to new SOHR statistics, the number of recruits who arrived in Libya up to date, rose to nearly 7,400 mercenaries, including a group of non-Syrian mercenaries, while nearly 2,500 others arrived in Turkey to undergo training courses,” it said.
Last month, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that “at least two Turkish army officers and several dozen pro-Turkey Syrian fighters have been killed, although exact numbers are not available.”
In a separate development reflecting the chaos enveloping the Tripoli power structure, an armed militia affiliated with the ministry of the interior loyal to the Sarraj government kidnapped last Monday an official from the Libyan Audi Bureau, a Tripoli based official institution supervising government spending.
Justifying the official’s kidnapping, the Interior Ministry claimed the COVID-19 related public health crisis required the urgent disbursement of funds needed “to rescue the Libyan people” and that the government is merely “carrying out responsibilities” undermined by the audit office.