Western Libya's militias equipped with Turkish arms amass to attack Armed Forces

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Thu, 24 Dec 2020 - 11:45 GMT

FILE - Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary

FILE - Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary

CAIRO – 24 December 2020: Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary stated Thursday that thousands of militants and foreign mercenaries affiliated to the militias protecting the Government of National Accord (GNA) are amassing eastern Misrata in preparation to attack Sirte and Al Jufrah.

 

Mesmary said that such elements are equipped with modern Turkish arms, and that they are located in Hisha, Qadahya, and Zamzam. The spokesperson added that the militias threatened to launch attacks on sites belonging to the Libyan Armed Forces in Sirte and Al Jufrah and then infirtlate eastern Libya controlled by the LNA.

 

Mesmary asserted the Libyan Armed Forces' commitment to the ceasefire warning against any escalation or provocation by the militias.  

 

Red Line 

 

The Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte in January, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah. The Libyan army installed air defense systems in Sirte, while Al Jufrah already has a main airbase.

 

On June 20, Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared Sirte and Al Jufrah in central Libya a red line that if crossed, Egypt's "direct intervention" becomes internationally legitimate.

 

That is because it is aligned with the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya and Berlin Conference imposing an arm embargo on Libyan factions, banning foreign intervention in the North African State, and advocating for a political solution. Furthermore, Egypt's intervention is requested by the elected Libyan House of Representatives and Libyan tribes.

 

On July 13, the Libyan House of Representatives issued a statement allowing the Egyptian Armed Forces to intervene whenever it perceives a threat to the security of Egypt and Libya describing Turkey as "the invading occupier."

 

On July 16, President Sisi met with Tribe leaders belonging to eastern, central, and western Libya in Cairo as they demanded Egypt's military support to repel Turkish aggression. "We will enter Libya upon the request of the Libyan people, and will leave it in compliance with the order of the Libyan people," the president stated.

 

On July 20, the Egyptian House of Representatives approved sending troops beyond Egyptian borders on the western strategic direction.

 

Escalation  

 

In December 2019, Turkey signed with the GNA two MoUs on defense and gas drilling in the Mediterranean.

 

In January, the Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah. The Libyan army installed air defense systems in Sirte, while Al Jufrah already has a main airbase.

 

Libyan tribes announced the closure of oil ports and fields in January as the revenues were used by the GNA to pay militants. Early in July, the tribes declared that oil facilities would resume operations.

 

The LNA announced downing on July 23 a Turkish reconnaissance plane west of the Libyan city of Sirte, which is currently controlled by LNA forces.

 

On July 22, the LNA warned Turkey against approaching the Libyan coasts, threatening to target any hostile naval vessels in the Libyan waters.

 

On July 5, several "unknown aircraft" launched nine strikes against Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah controlled by the GNA – which is an interim non-elected government that is recognized by the United Nations - and Turkey. The outcome was the destruction of Hawk air defense systems, and a Koral electronic warfare system as well as the killing of a Turkish commander, and six officers as the operations room they were in was hit.

 

However, Commander of Mobilization at the LNA Khaled al-Mahgoub stated on July 20 that Turkey still uses Oqba bin Nafea airbase in Al Watiyah western the country to bring in military reinforcements less than a month from losing air defense and electronic warfare systems in strikes by "unknown flights."  

 

The LNA's commander of mobilization unveiled on July 25 that Syrian mercenaries transported by Turkey are being turned into police forces by the Ministry of Interior affiliated to the GNA.

 

The GNA was formed as per the 2014 Skhirat Agreement expired in 2017, and that failed to achieve its purpose, which is ending the civil war and unifying the affiliation of the country's institutions.  There is another interim government that is based in Tobruk eastern Libya and that was formed by the elected Libyan House of Representatives convening in the same city instead of Benghazi given the circumstances. Benghazi currently constitutes the headquarters of the LNA.

 

Spokesperson of the LNA al-Mesmary had stated early in July that Turkey has transported into Libya 25,000 mercenaries. Those include 17,000 Syrian militants, 2,500 Tunisians who fought in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in Idlib and Aleppo, and other nationalities including the Sudanese.

 

Turkey has also sent 2,500 – 3,000 officers and military experts to co-command the operations rooms of the Government of National Accord (GNA) militias and to pilot drones from mainly Tripoli's Mitiga Airbase. The LNA downed around 70 Turkish drones as they were targeting its concentrations.

 

SOHR reported on September 7 that 6,700 Syrian mercenaries transported by Turkey into Libya left for their homeland.

 

Those returned over batches after their contracts had ended and after they had received their payments.

 

Those will be deployed in the areas controlled by Turkey and its proxies in Syria, according to Sky News Arabia. Also, others are getting ready to leave Syria to Libya.

 

Moves by Militias

 

On August 24, Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary stated that the GNA militias are mobilizing militants and transporting arms to attack the LNA's concentrations in Sirte.

                                        

Mesmary added that in the previous 24 hours Turkish frigates were moving toward Sirte, and that their launchers were in the attack position. He said that such military moves show that the decision in not solely in the hands of the GNA that has declared a ceasefire on August 21. The spokesperson stressed that the LNA is ready to repel any assault on its concentrations in Sirte and Al Jufrah.

 

The GNA said that the ceasefire should include the disarmament of Sirte and Al Jufrah, and the resumption of oil production while freezing the use of its revenues at the Central Bank of Libya until an agreement is reached. On the other hand, the House of Representatives mandated the dismantling of militias and the deportation of foreign mercenaries in order to achieve a ceasefire.

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