LNA Carries out Preemptive Strike against Turkey in Watiya
Several Turkish military personnel were killed on Sunday in suspected Libyan National Army (LNA) raids on the al-Watiya airbase west of the capital Tripoli. The facility was recaptured by the Government of National Accord (GNA) with Ankara’s support in May.
The GNA and Turkey did not comment on the strikes, the first of their kind after a Turkish military delegation, headed by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, concluded a controversial surprise visit to Tripoli and the coastal Misrata city.
GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj did, however, hold a meeting on Sunday with head of the High National Election Commission Emad al-Sayah to discuss possible elections.
A statement from his office said they discussed technical and financial issues related to the polls, making no mention of the raid.
Meanwhile, GNA deputy defense minister Salaheddine al-Namroush said the retaliation to what he described as a violation of Libyan airspace will take place at the “right time and location.”
“The attack on vital installations within Libyan territory demonstrates that some countries are still banking on aggression against the legitimate government,” he tweeted.
LNA sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that six Turkish officers and a GNA military official were killed in the unprecedented attack on al-Watiya, which Ankara is seeking to transform into a command center for its operations in western Libya.
The preemptive raid was aimed at preventing Turkey from achieving its goals at the base, an LNA official told Asharq Al-Aswsat without elaborating.
A source at the LNA’s air operations command room told local media that the strike also targeted defense systems, radars and the KORAL Electronic Warfare System.
The strikes were carried out by “unknown aircraft”, a military source with the LNA told Reuters.
A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.
The LNA did not make an official announcement about the raid, but photos circulated on social media on Sunday showed the base coming under attack.
The LNA official said the military decided to destroy the systems at the base shortly after the Turkish defense minister was informed that they had become operational. The minister was informed in Misrata that the base was ready for use.
The official confirmed that the system has been completely destroyed and that the aircraft returned safely to their bases, in what was an implicit admission that the LNA was behind the attack.
Turkey, for its part, also implicitly acknowledged its losses. A source from the GNA sources told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that the Watiya base came under attack by “unknown aircraft”. It claimed that no one was killed in the assault.