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Haftar Replaces Military Commander in Sabha following Reports of Foreign Mercenaries

Haftar Replaces Military Commander in Sabha following Reports of Foreign Mercenaries

Tuesday, 27 February, 2018 - 07:30
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Libyan National Accord Government, pose for a photo during a meeting in Istanbul, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP)

The Commander of the Libyan army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, unexpectedly replaced the military chief in the southern city of Sabha on Sunday, amid conflicting reports of “foreign mercenaries” controlling the city's airport, which has witnessed intense fighting between armed groups, including mercenaries from Chad and Sudan.

A statement by Haftar’s office said that Brigadier Khalifa Abdul Hafiz Khalifa was appointed as the chief of the sixth infantry brigade in the city of Sabha, replacing Brigadier Ahmeed Al-Ataibi. Haftar did not elaborate on the circumstances of his decision, which came amid intermittent clashes in the city for the sixth consecutive day.

According to the mayor of Sabha, Hamed al-Khayali, non-Libyan militants, raising African countries’ flags, took control over the city’s airport. He added that militants were a group of mercenaries from Sudan and Chad, seeking to invade South Libya.

The mayor also said that army headquarters were attacked and some families were forced to leave areas of clashes.

At the political level, the head of the National Accord Government, Fayez Al-Sarraj, underlined the need to commit to the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections under UN supervision before the end of the year.

Following his meeting on Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Sarraj said that building a civil democratic state necessitated comprehensive national reconciliation and the holding of general elections.

The Libyan prime minister highlighted the importance of the return of Turkish companies to help revive the economy and reconstruction in Libya.

Stressing the “historic relations between Libya and Turkey”, Sarraj expressed his appreciation “for Ankara’s support of the path of consensus and the importance attached by the Turkish government to push the political process forward.”

Erdogan, for his part, affirmed his country’s readiness to “contribute to investment and development in Libya.”

An official statement said that the two sides welcomed the outcome of the Turkish-Libyan Conference on Development and Investment, which concluded in Istanbul on Sunday, and discussed the role of Turkish companies in reconstruction and investment, tackling obstacles and mechanisms to develop cooperation in various fields.

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