Posts Tagged ‘Khalifa Haftar’

Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Libyan PM Al-Serraj and Haftar agree to ceasefire at Paris talks

July 25, 2017

AFP

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-25

Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his main rival, General Khalifa Haftar, agreed to a conditional ceasefire at Paris talks on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the talks on Tuesday, stating that he hoped to “facilitate a political agreement” between the head of Libya’s unity government and the powerful Egyptian-backed commander when they met at a chateau in La Celle Saint-Cloud, outside the French capital.

The Paris talks follows a first contact between Sarraj and Haftar in Abu Dhabi in May. That meeting was seen as a tentative step towards reconciliation in Libya, which has been mired in conflict and chaos since the 2011 uprising, when longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by rebels supported by a French-led NATO air campaign.

Can Macron’s Libya talks deliver

July 25, 2017
© Khalil Mazraawi, Ludovic Marin, Fethi Belaid, AFP | France’s Emmanuel Macron is hoping to score a diplomatic coup when he hosts Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar (left) and the country’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (right) on Tuesday.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by Brenna DALDORPH

Latest update : 2017-07-25

French President Emmanuel Macron will host talks on Tuesday between Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his main rival, General Khalifa Haftar, in a landmark meeting all three are hoping to benefit from.

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Khalifa Haftar

Officials at the Elysée Palace say Macron will be hoping to “facilitate a political agreement” between the head of Libya‘s unity government and the powerful Egyptian-backed commander when they meet at a chateau in La Celle Saint-Cloud, outside the French capital.

The Paris talks follows a first contact between Sarraj and Haftar in Abu Dhabi in May. That meeting was seen as a tentative step towards reconciliation in Libya, which has been mired in conflict and chaos since the 2011 uprising, when longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by rebels supported by a French-led NATO air campaign.

THE LIBYAN STRONGMAN AND THE WEAK PM

Currently, Libya numbers two rival parliaments and three governments (the latest was formed in UN-brokered talks and was meant to replace the other two). So far, Haftar has rejected the authority of Sarraj’s UN-backed government as his forces gain ground in the east of the country supported by Egypt and United Arab Emirates.

But, this month, Sarraj set out a new political roadmap for his war-torn country, including the scheduling of presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2018. There is hope that weapons could be set aside and a political solution could be reached.

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Libya’s two strongmen: Fayez al-Sarraj meets Khalifa Haftar — File photo from AFP

Priority for Macron

Western intelligence services fear that Islamic State (IS) group jihadists may capitalise on the chaos to set up bases in Libya as they are chased from their former strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

This fear prompted a shift in French policy: in May, Macron’s newly appointed administration said it was reviewing its position on the Libyan conflict and openly called for a united national army — including Haftar — to battle Islamist militants.

Macron promised during his campaign to prioritise the fight against jihadist militants and, in his first week, travelled to Mali to pay a visit to the French troops that make up the Operation Barkhane counter-terrorism force, created to address the threat across the Sahel. He returned to Mali again in July. Macron has said Libya is a priority for his administration.

“The situation in Libya is extremely worrying for the region because it is positioned on the doorstep of Europe — and, thus, France,” said an official at the Elysée palace on Monday. “For reasons of regional stability, the fight against terrorism and the fight against illegal immigration, the president of the republic wanted to immediately take initiatives for Libya.”

Mattia Toaldo, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says there’s another reason that the French president has leapt on this opportunity to arrange talks between Sarraj and Haftar: because it is the easiest of his priorities to tackle.

“If you compare it with the other priority dossiers — Syria, Russia and the Sahel — facilitating the organisation of elections in Libya doesn’t seem like the hardest task,” Toaldo said. “Macron has already achieved a lot just by convening the summit. It’s taken months for anyone else to get the two sides together, but Macron did it quickly.”

There’s another reason why Macron may find it (marginally) easier to work on Libya, according to Toaldo. On June 22, Ghassan Salamé was appointed as UN special envoy to Libya. Salamé is a Paris-based Lebanese academic, Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs and professor of International Relations at Sciences Po.

“Many people in Macron’s team probably had Salamé as a professor,” Toaldo said. “Salamé is basically French. That was one factor that contributed to this meeting coming together much faster than talks that other countries tried to arrange. Macron can enjoy that little win. Then again, I hope France doesn’t have any illusions about how easy it will be after.”

Gains for the leaders

Macron isn’t the only one with political capital to gain during this meeting, Toaldo added.

“One of the things that lured Haftar to Paris is the possibility of a five-minute photo op with Macron,” he said. “It will do a lot for his international standing. Just last year, Haftar was an outcast.”

Back then, it was unclear what Haftar could do militarily: his men’s control was restricted to a region in the northeast of Libya. Now, the tables have turned and it is his opponents whose control has been reduced to a small area, this time in the country’s northwest.

“Haftar is in a more powerful position,” Toaldo said. “The situation on the ground has changed. Haftar is also backed by Egypt and the UAE, who seem to be on the winning side in the region.”

According to Toaldo, Sarraj is also attending the meeting with the hope of gaining standing by getting Macron’s support.

“Seraj doesn’t have real, consolidated support within Libya — he’s just a political figure in a country where political figures don’t matter,” Toaldo said. “He is similar to [the US-backed former president of Afghanistan, Hamid] Karzai. These men are strong only because external powers give them strength.”

Meeting goals

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Elysée officials set out a more concrete goal for the talks.

“We want to see a joint declaration tomorrow between the two main actors,” officials said. “That would be the first time that they accept to agree on a vision of diplomatic transition for the months to come.”

For Toaldo, this may be aiming too high. He said the Libyan leaders won’t want to be seen as making too many concessions, fearing a backlash at home. After the meeting in Abu Dhabi, Sarraj bore the brunt of the criticism, he noted, even though some rumours had exaggerated the extent of his concessions.

“My guess is that they will come to an agreement about a framework for further negotiations,” Toaldo said, “But nothing more binding than that. My hope, however, is that it is more substantial than just a Kodak moment for these three leaders.”

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Video shows 18 blindfolded ‘ISIS fighters’ being shot in the head in Libya

July 24, 2017
  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • The men are understood to be ISIS fighters who were killed by the Libyan Army
  • Executioners walk up to a row of prisoners and shoot them dead with rifles
  • Killers then turn on their heels and walk back before the sequence is repeated

A shocking video has emerged showing 18 prisoners in orange jumpsuits getting shot in the back of the head from point-blank range in summary executions in Libya.

The men, understood to be ISIS fighters, are shown kneeling in four rows and facing away from their killers.

Executioners can be seen walking up slowly behind their targets before firing a spray of bullets from what look like semi-automatic assault rifles into the backs of their heads before another line of killers repeat the sequence.

It comes amid tensions between jihadists and Libyan forces in Benghazi after strongman Khalifa Haftar – a former soldier under the Gaddafi regime who has risen through the ranks to commander of the Libyan National Army – declared victory in the eastern city.

Scroll down for video 

Executioners, thought to be from the Libyan National Army, take aim at their targets - supposedly ISIS fighters in the country 

Executioners, thought to be from the Libyan National Army, take aim at their targets – supposedly ISIS fighters in the country

The killers spray their targets with bullets long after they have fallen to the ground in a heap

The killers spray their targets with bullets long after they have fallen to the ground in a heap

Eighteen blindfolded prisoners in Guantanamo Bay-style jumpsuits line up to face their deaths

Eighteen blindfolded prisoners in Guantanamo Bay-style jumpsuits line up to face their deaths

The gruesome video, seen by MailOnline, shows all 18 men in orange jumpsuits falling to the floor after being shot, but it it not clear who is pulling the trigger and giving the orders.

It is claimed by the Libyan Express the commander of the eastern Saiqa Force of Operation Dignity Mahmoud Al-Werfalli conducted the massacre.

He was also said to have ordered the killings by the Libyan Observer, who reported he had been promoted by Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, for his alleged role in killing policemen in May.

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Khalifa Haftar

It is understood those killed were ISIS fighters in Libya, according to Al Jazeera, who again claimed it was Al-Werfalli reading the charges before his proteges shoot the detainees dead.

In the video, a man can be seen reading from a piece of paper and men in military uniform can be seen walking up to their targets, taking one each, and unleashing a flurry of bullets on the command of their leader.

The kneeling men fall to the ground face-first, which doesn’t stop the gunmen from shooting.

Eventually, they turn on their heels and walk back together in a line before a new set of executioners walk forward and kill the next line of prisoners.

A man in an orange jumpsuit located in the second line appears to fall forward in an attempt to fool the executioners, but he is dragged back onto his knees and callously shot in the head in the second round of killings.

The sequence continues until all 18 men are dead.

The first row of prisoners are taken out by the first line of executioners in the video dated July 17

The first row of prisoners are taken out by the first line of executioners in the video dated July 17

Five prisoners lay face-down in the dirt after being shot in the back of the head at point-blank range

Five prisoners lay face-down in the dirt after being shot in the back of the head at point-blank range

Dust rises from the ground in the desert as the executioners stand behind the men they have killed

Dust rises from the ground in the desert as the executioners stand behind the men they have killed

Executioners holding up their semi-automatic assault rifles before pulling the trigger and killing their targets

Executioners holding up their semi-automatic assault rifles before pulling the trigger and killing their targets

The video is dated July 17, which means it would have come just days after the UN’s human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said called for the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the eastern part of the country to investigate summary executions of prisoners.

The UN’s human rights body and voiced concern at the fate of those still in their custody.

The LNA is pushing to expand its presence in central and southern Libya, where it has been vying for control with forces linked to the UN-backed government in Tripoli and other opponents.

LNA leader Khalifa Haftar has gained ground with Egyptian and Emirati support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to Libya’s conflict

UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said: ‘We are deeply concerned that, after recent fighting in Benghazi, people taken prisoner by members of the Libyan National Army, which effectively controls eastern Libya, may be at imminent risk of torture and even summary execution.

‘Reports have suggested the involvement of Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA, in torturing detainees and summarily executing at least 10 captured men.’

A member of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, rides in a tank as it drives down a street through the rubble in Benghazi's central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017 following clashes with militants

A member of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country’s east strongman Khalifa Haftar, rides in a tank as it drives down a street through the rubble in Benghazi’s central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017 following clashes with militants

Smoke billows from buildings during clashes between members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, and militants in Benghazi's central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017

A picture shows a damaged building in Benghazi's central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017.
Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar on July 5, 2017, announced the "total liberation" of second city Benghazi, which was overrun by jihadists three years ago

A picture shows a damaged building in Benghazi’s central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017.Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar on July 5, 2017, announced the ‘total liberation’ of second city Benghazi, which was overrun by jihadists three years ago

The Libyan National Army announced last March that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes but has not shared any information, Throssell said.

‘We urge the LNA to ensure there is a full, impartial investigation into these allegations,’ she said.

Throssell also called on the group to suspend Mahmoud al-Werfalli from his duties as a Special Forces field commander pending the conclusion of such an investigation.

A video circulating on social media in March allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting dead three men who were kneeling and facing a wall with their hands tied behind their backs, Throssell said.

In June, two further videos appeared to show summary executions carried out by LNA fighters on his orders.

‘One of these videos, which emerged on 9 June, shows four men kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs who are shot dead as al-Werfalli watches,’ she said.

‘The latest video, which was posted on social media this month, seems to shows LNA fighters kicking and taunting prisoners, while al-Werfalli is apparently heard accusing two men who have their hands tied behind their backs of belonging to terrorist groups,’ she said.

The LNA has declined comment on the images.

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Rights Group Calls for Probe Into Libyan Forces After Execution Video Shown — “Apparent war crimes” HRW says

July 24, 2017

CAIRO — Libya officials should investigate and dismiss forces involved in atrocities, a human rights group said on Monday, after a video appeared on social media purportedly showing a military unit executing 20 suspected militants.

The video was seen by Reuters on social media but it could not be independently verified. It appears to show a military unit linked to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar executing 20 hooded men they accuse of being Islamic State militants found guilty of bombings and killings.

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Khalifa Haftar

The video is the latest that appears to show Haftar’s Libyan National Army troops engaged in summary executions of suspected militants. An LNA spokesman in Benghazi declined to comment on the video but it has previously denied its forces are involved.

Image result for Khalifa Haftar executing 20 hooded men, photos

Khalifa Haftar appears in an “execution video” like this one from the Islamic State

“This latest mass execution, if confirmed, would be one more in a string of atrocities committed by members of the Libyan National Army forces and is yet another manifestation of how its members are taking the law into their own hands,” Eric Goldstein, Middle East and North Africa deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said.

The video was released in a week when Haftar and Fayez al-Serraj, the leader of Libya’s U.N.-backed government, are due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris for talks over a political agreement to end the factional fighting.

Haftar and his allies have rejected the authority of Serraj’s government in Tripoli that is supported by other armed factions and presented by Libya’s Western partners as the solution to the country’s crisis.

POWER STRUGGLE

Haftar’s LNA is one of the most powerful military forces in the country, gaining ground in the east and the south with the support of Egypt and United Arab Emirates who back his campaign against Islamist militants.

Libya has had no national army, despite the name of Haftar’s group, since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 civil war sent the state spiralling into a power struggle among competing brigades of former rebels each backing rival political factions.

Goldstein said the LNA and the Libyan government needed to remove from duty those accused of violations and hold them accountable if found guilty after a transparent investigation.

“A failure to do so risks implicating senior military commanders in these apparent war crimes,” he said.

The video purports to show an LNA commander reading out a statement before rows of men kneeling in orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their heads and their hands bound. LNA forces move row by row to fire into the back of their heads and bodies.

“Executed by firing squad after they were found guilty,” a caption on the video reads.

The video did not explain how the men had been found guilty, but armed groups in Libya often say they are legitimate forces that carry out their own investigations, and have been accused of torturing and abusing prisoners.

An LNA special forces commander, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, appears in the video. The United Nations has previously called for the LNA to dismiss him after a video in March allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting dead three men who were kneeling and facing a wall with their hands tied behind their backs.

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Mahmoud al-Werfalli, at right

In June, two further videos appeared to show summary executions carried out by LNA fighters on his orders.

Earlier this month, the U.N. human rights body called on the LNA to investigate summary executions of prisoners and torture of those still in captivity. In March, the LNA said it would investigate potential war crimes but has not released any details of the probe.

The U.N. human rights office had no immediate comment about the latest video.

(Reporting by Patrick Markey)

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Libya’s Top Strongmen Meet in Paris With Macron

July 24, 2017

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Libya’s two strongmen: Fayez al-Sarraj meets Khalifa Haftar — File photo from AFP

PARIS (AFP) – Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj will hold talks near Paris on Tuesday with Khalifa Haftar, the powerful military commander based in the country’s east, the French presidency said.

French President Emmanuel Macron will host the meeting, the presidency said in a statement on Monday.

“France intends, through this initiative, to facilitate a political agreement” between the two rivals as the newly appointed UN envoy for Libya, Ghassam Salame, takes office, the statement said.

Tuesday’s talks, which were first reported by France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday, would be the second between Sarraj and Haftar in the space of three months after they met in Abu Dhabi in May.

Sarraj this month laid out a new political roadmap for his violence-wracked country, including the scheduling of presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2018.

Political rivalry and fighting between militias have hampered Libya’s recovery from the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled and longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, who was killed in the aftermath.

Sarraj’s Government of National Accord has been struggling to assert its authority since it began work in Tripoli in March 2016. Haftar’s rival administration based in the remote east has refused to recognise it.

Western intelligence services fear that Islamic State jihadists are capitalising on the chaos to set up bases in Libya as they are chased from their former strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Libya has also become the main springboard for migrants seeking to reach the European Union by sailing to Italy in often flimsy and overloaded boats.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told newspaper Le Monde in June that Libya was “a priority” for Macron and said there was “a security risk because of the trafficking of all kinds, including humans” from Libya.

“In consultation with all its partners, France intends to show its support for the efforts to build a political compromise, under the aegis of the United Nations, which unites… all the different Libyan actors,” Monday’s statement from the Elysee Palace said.

“The challenge is to build a state capable of meeting the basic needs of Libyans and endowed with a regular unified army under the authority of the civil power.

“It is necessary for the control of Libyan territory and its borders, to fight terrorist groups and arms and migrant traffickers, but also with a view to a return to a stable institutional life.”

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France to Host Talks With Libya’s Premier Amid Falling Poll Number for Macron, Firing of Top French General, Budget Cuts

July 24, 2017

PARIS — France said it will host talks on Tuesday between Fayez al-Serraj, head of Libya’s U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a powerful military commander in the divided country’s east who has so far rejected his authority.

During the talks, President Emmanuel Macron aims to show France’s support for U.N-backed efforts to stabilize the country, “which would based upon the involvement of all the different factions in Libya,” his office said in a statement.

Unconfirmed reports of the talks had been circulating since last week.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Libya’s two strongmen: Fayez al-Sarraj meets Khalifa Haftar

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Popularity tumbles for France’s Macron: poll

Popularity tumbles for France's Macron: poll
Photo: AFP
A poll out Sunday shows the popularity rating of France’s new President Emmanuel Macron has slumped 10 points to hit 54 percent over the past month.

While Macron has made a strong start on the world stage and won a solid majority in parliament, his first three months in power have not been completely trouble-free.

He was widely criticised by opponents and the press as heavy-handed after a row over budget cuts that ended with the resignation of a highly-regarded military chief.

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President Macron and Pierre de Villiers clashed over the French military’s budget. Now de Villiers is gone and Macron’s poll numbers have slipped

The 39-year-old leader has also backed a controversial bill to toughen France’s security laws that includes measures some rights groups have branded as draconian.

His majority in parliament has drawn concern, with opponents and several newspapers expressing concern over the concentration of power in the presidency.

According to an Ifop poll carried out for Journal du Dimanche newspaper, the number of French people satisfied with his performance fell 10 points from 64 percent in June.

Macron’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe marked an eight point drop to hit 56 percent of French people happy with him, said the poll of 1,947 adults carried out from July 17th-22nd.

France’s youngest-ever president, who has sought to project an image of authority since taking office in May, made clear during the row with the military boss that he would brook no insubordination as commander-in-chief.

The leftist Liberation newspaper said Macron’s “little authoritarian fit” could be a sign he was drunk on power and said it was time for him “to grow up a bit”.

A relative newcomer to politics who won election on a tide of disaffection with mainstream politics, Macron has enjoyed a honeymoon with voters, drawing particular praise for standing up to US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Libya strongman in UAE for talks on military ‘cooperation’

July 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP | File picture of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, who has met with UAE leaders for talks on military cooperation

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has met with UAE leaders for talks on military cooperation, state media said Sunday, days after announcing the retaking of second city Benghazi from jihadists.Haftar, who has visited the United Arab Emirates regularly in recent months, held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Saturday on “joint cooperation between the two countries… in combating extremism and terrorist organisations,” state news agency WAM said.

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

The United Nations in June released a report accusing the UAE of supplying helicopters and other military aircraft to Haftar in violation of a UN arms embargo.

Haftar, the head of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, on Wednesday announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi, three years after it was overrun by jihadists.

Six years after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, chaos continues to engulf Libya as militants fight for power and access to the country’s vast oil reserves.

The unrest has provided fertile ground for extremist groups, some with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The UAE in May hosted a meeting between Haftar and rival Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), in a bid to mediate in the political conflict.

Haftar does not recognise the authority of the Tripoli-based GNA, instead backing an alternate government based in the country’s east.

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Khalifa Haftar
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By Ayman Al-Warfalli

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BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libya’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar said on Wednesday his forces had taken full control of Libya’s second city Benghazi from rival armed groups after a three-year campaign.

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The battle for Benghazi between Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and an array of Islamist militants and other fighters has been part of a broader conflict since Libya slipped into turmoil following the 2011 fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

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Victory would mark a major advance for the one-time commander in Gaddafi’s army, who has slowly gained ground in eastern and southern Libya in defiance of a U.N.-backed government that is struggling to extend its influence from the capital, Tripoli.

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Libya’s Eastern Commander Declares Victory — Members of the Libyan army’s special forces celebrate after the liberation of the last region of Islamist militants in their last stronghold in Benghazi, Libya, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori . Reuters

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“Your armed forces declare to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism, a full liberation and a victory of dignity,” Haftar said, wearing a white uniform in a televised speech.

“Benghazi has entered into a new era of safety and peace.”

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Before he spoke, LNA forces made rapid progress through the seafront district of Sabri, using heavy artillery to blast their way through some of the final pockets of resistance.

As they have after past retreats in the battle for the city, rival armed groups may fall back on using guerrilla tactics against Haftar’s forces.

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Haftar launched his “Operation Dignity” in Benghazi in May 2014, promising to crush Islamists blamed for a wave of assassinations and bombings.

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Over three years his forces have clashed with militants as well as with former anti-Gaddafi rebels resisting what they saw as an attempt to reimpose autocratic rule. The LNA suffered heavy losses, which its own officials put at more than 5,000 men.

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Haftar’s critics accuse him of dragging Benghazi into a war that he has used to establish military control over much of eastern Libya. Parts of Benghazi have been wrecked by heavy shelling and air strikes.

In Sabri, where the LNA advanced on Wednesday, deserted streets were littered with debris and the shells of rusting cars. Some buildings have been destroyed and others peppered with holes from bullets and shrapnel.

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Having seized a string of key oil ports and southern air bases since last year, Haftar has made little secret of ambitions to enter Tripoli, where he portrays his rivals as beholden to Islamists and militia rule.

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He has backing from foreign powers including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and has cultivated closer ties with Moscow. The LNA has gradually grown bigger and better equipped but is still heavily dependent on alliances with local brigades and tribes.

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Though weak, the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli retains the formal support of most Western powers.

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(Reporting by Ayman Al-Warfalli; writing by Patrick Markey and Aidan Lewis; editing by Diane Craft)

Strongman Haftar declares victory in battle for Libya’s Benghazi — “Total liberation” — “Today Benghazi enters a new era of peace, security, reconciliation…. and reconstruction.”

July 6, 2017

AFP

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© Abdullah Doma / AFP | Troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar celebrate as they arrive in the eastern city of Benghazi on June 5, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-06

Libyan military strongman  on Wednesday announced the “total liberation” of second city Benghazi, which was overrun by jihadists three years ago.

“After a continuous struggle against terrorism and its agents that lasted more than three years… we announce to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism,” Haftar, in full military regalia, said in a speech broadcast on television.

“Today Benghazi enters a new era of peace, security, reconciliation…. and reconstruction,” said Haftar, paying homage to “a caravan of martyrs” who fell in the battle for the city.

Field Marshal Haftar declared war on jihadists in Benghazi, three years after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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Khalifa Haftar

Code-named Operation Dignity, the assault led by Haftar targeted several jihadists groups which had overrun Benghazi after the uprising.

These include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias among them suspected members of the Islamic state group and the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia.

Haftar’s announcement came only hours after his self-styled Libyan National Army said they had cornered the last jihadists in a neighbourhood of the eastern city, which had been the cradle of the uprising.

The LNA said they were surrounding the jihadists in Al-Sabri central district after routing them from the Soug al-Hout neighbourhood.

LNA General Abdessalam al-Hassi told AFP the jihadists were cornered in a small part of Al-Sabri and under attack from air strikes, as well as ground forces on three fronts.

Last week a medical source in the city said 44 LNA soldiers had been killed in June alone in Al-Sabri and Soug al-Hout.

Haftar does not recognise the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and instead backs a rival parliament based in the country’s far east.

In May, the Libyan foreign minister said Haftar must accept civilian rule in order to play a role in the future of the North African country.

“Haftar must first accept to work under a civilian authority and officially approve the political deal” that gave rise to the power-sharing authority, Mohamed al-Taher Siala told AFP.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of the oil-rich country.

(AFP)

Egypt launches fresh Libyan air strikes after IS group attack

May 28, 2017

AFP and Reuters

Egypt launched a fresh round of air strikes over Libya on Saturday, Egyptian military sources and an eyewitness told Reuters, targeting militant camps it said were responsible for a shooting spree that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians.

On Friday, Egyptian fighter jets struck eastern Libya just hours after a shooting that killed 29 and wounded 24 in the southern Egyptian province of Minya when masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery and opened fire at close range.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest directed at Egypt’s increasingly embattled Christian minority following two church bombings last month that killed more than 45, also claimed by the group.

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Scene outside Nasser Institute Hospital in where victims of latest attcak on were taken.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Friday he had ordered air raids on militant camps in Libya, where he said the Minya gunmen had trained, though he did not name a specific group responsible.

Sisi, who has presented himself as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the region, said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country to quash future threats.

Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids on Saturday morning struck the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, have been trying to gain control from Islamists and other opponents.

A source in Haftar’s Libyan National Army told Reuters that they had coordinated with Egyptian counterparts to strike ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council, an Islamist umbrella group that opposes Islamic State.

A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of Derna on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the second round of strikes.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had delivered a letter on Saturday to the United Nations Security Council informing it that the strikes were conducted as an act of legitimate
self-defence, according to a ministry statement.

Derna has a history of Islamist militancy and is where Islamic State set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival Islamists.

The east Libyan air force said Friday the strikes were targeting al-Qaeda linked forces and did not mention Islamic State.

Egypt’s military said in a statement it had “conducted several intensive day and night-time strikes” that successfully destroyed many targets, including training camps responsible for the Minya attack.

A video uploaded to the military’s Facebook page depicted fighter jets being armed with missiles and taking off as well as aerial footage of air strikes.

(REUTERS)

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The Isis jihadist group