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Clashes Reach Tripoli Suburbs as Islamists Rally for Support

Clashes Reach Tripoli Suburbs as Islamists Rally for Support

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 06:15
The clashes in Tripoli raged for a ninth day on Thursday. (AFP)

The clashes between the forces of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) intensified in Tripoli on Thursday with the death toll in the fighting reaching 56.

The clashes in the capital’s suburbs forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

The Islamist militias in Tripoli, meanwhile, prepared to hold a demonstration on Friday in the hope to rally popular support.

On the diplomatic front, Sarraj addressed a message to current Security Council president Germany's UN ambassador, Christoph Heusgen, to criticize the body’s failure to issue a resolution to condemn the LNA’s operation against Tripoli.

The Council and European Union appeared divided over the operation

Sarraj said that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had informed him during a telephone call Wednesday that Europe was united in demanding an end to the LNA military advance.

An EU statement expressed its grave concern over the military escalation in the capital, saying there can be no military solution to the Libyan crisis.

France had blocked a previous version of the statement.

At the request of France, the statement was amended from its draft version to include mentions of the plight of refugees and migrants in Libya, and the presence among the anti-Haftar forces of Islamist militants designated as terrorists by the United Nations.

“The military attack launched by the LNA on Tripoli and the subsequent escalation in and around the capital are endangering civilians, including migrants and refugees, and disrupting the UN-led political process, with the risk of serious consequences for Libya and the wider region, including the terrorist threat,” top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini said.

Observers said that the French stance reveals the re-emergence of the dispute between Paris and Rome over the conflict in Libya.

Italy is a former colonial power in Libya and France enjoys close ties to Haftar.

Italy has demanded that the EU statement refrain from backing any side in the escalating crisis, while France had pushed the bloc against calling on Haftar to stop his offensive.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said 56 people - mainly combatants though also some civilians including two doctors and an ambulance driver - had been killed, and another 266 wounded in Tripoli.

It was not clear if this included the toll given by the LNA for its soldiers - 28 killed and 95 wounded since the start of the offensive last week.

The number of people forced out of their homes by fighting rose to 8,075, the UN migration agency IOM said.

The EU also evacuated staff of its 20-member mission in Tripoli. The German news agency and Tunisian media said that the staff and diplomats had arrived in Tunisia.

On the ground and amid heavy clashes, the LNA said that it killed dozens of militants and destroyed several of their armored vehicles in the al-Sawani suburb in southern Tripoli.

It added that major military reinforcements had arrived in from the east as the Tripoli fighting entered its ninth day.

The 9th Brigade, Tarhuna, advanced on the al-Khalla region as pro-GNA forces from Misrata fled the area, it revealed.

The LNA is marching on Tripoli from the east and southeast. The western front is being defended by pro-GNA forces. LNA troops in the east are trying to contain the resistance thrown up by the Misrata forces.

The army said that several youths, who were among the western region militias, had contacted the LNA, expressed their support for Haftar and laid down their arms.

The military hailed the defections from the militias that have “spread corruption in the country and hoped that others, who have been deceived, follow their example.”

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