27 C
Monday, February 24, 2020

UN envoy in Libya says Haftar advance on Tripoli a coup attempt

Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar tried to stage a coup by issuing an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame said on Monday with Libya’s top rivals locked in military confrontation over the capital Tripoli.

Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli almost two weeks ago, predicting defections and victory within two days. 

However, Serraj’s internationally-recognised government has managed to bog them down in southern suburbs, thanks largely to armed groups who have rushed to aid them from various western Libyan factions. 

Haftar, a 75-year-old former general in the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s army, has been building up troop numbers and intensifying air strikes in a campaign he is selling as necessary to restore order and eradicate jihadists. 

But Salame, speaking to BBC radio, said Haftar’s decision to issue in the course of his campaign arrest warrants for Serraj and other top Tripoli officials “sounded more like a coup than counter-terrorism”. 

Haftar’s side confirmed the warrant had been issued and Serraj’s government said it had been immediately rejected. 

Diplomats believe Haftar for now faces no pressure to back off from backers including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France, who see him as the best bet to end the factional chaos plaguing Libya since Gaddafi’s fall in a 2011 uprising. 

Salame, whose plans for a national reconciliation conference this week had to be postponed because of the fighting, said he hoped both side will realise in the coming days that neither could achieve an outright military victory. 

“We are in fact in a military stalemate since eight days, or nine days,” Salame said, adding that both sides had carried out 30 air strikes each that had not changed the situation on the ground. 

Air strikes and shelling have hit civilian infrastructure and residential homes, especially in the south of Tripoli where Haftar’s forces have sought to penetrate government defences. 

The U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said targeting civilian facilities was a violation of international humanitarian law. 

Growing Civilian Casualties

The United Nations Libya mission UNSMIL also warned in a statement that “the bombing of schools, hospitals, ambulances and civilian areas is strictly prohibited”, adding that it was documenting such cases for the U.N Security Council. 

“We are concerned at the mounting civilian casualties, we are concerned at damage to vital civilian infrastructure,” David Satterfield, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for the Near East affairs, told reporters in a conference call. 

A school was hit on Saturday in an air strike blamed on Haftar’s forces, Tripoli officials said. 

Two missiles also struck education ministry warehouses late on Sunday, destroying 3.1 million school books, an official in the Tripoli government told Reuters. OCHA said in a tweet five million books and national exam results had been destroyed. 

In another incident, Reuters reporters on Monday filmed a residential block in southern Tripoli that was hit by at least one rocket. Several families were inside during the strike but escaped with minor injuries. Children’s shoes, bread and shards of the rockets lay on the floor of the dwelling. 

Both sides have traded blame over shelling of residential districts.

More than 18,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, 2,500 alone in the past 24 hours, the U.N. migration agency said. Nearly 150 people, mostly combatants, have been killed, the World Health Organization said. More than 600 people have been wounded. 

The U.N.-organised national reconciliation conference, planned long before Haftar’s advance, had been intended to bring the two sides together to end the turmoil and plan an election. 

No new date has yet been set. 

Haftar has long said his declared mission is to restore order to the oil-producing North African country.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Latest News

Vote count in Togo as opposition alleges fraud

Togo tallied ballots Sunday after a key challenger insisted he could cause a shock upset despite what he claimed was "fraud" in an election...

Former South African president Jacob Zuma returns after medical trip to Cuba

Former South African president Jacob Zuma touched down at OR Tambo International Airport, following a medical vacation to Cuba for an undisclosed illness.The former...

South Sudan rivals form coalition government

South Sudan opened a new chapter in its fragile emergence from civil war Saturday as rival leaders formed a coalition government that many observers...

Biden attempt to play victim of South African apartheid regime backfires

US Democratic Presidential contender and former vice president, Joe Biden has controversially claimed that he was arrested in South Africa during apartheid, while trying...

120 jihadists killed in a joint operation by French and Nigerien army

A joint operation by Nigerien and French troops in southwest Niger killed 120 "terrorists" and seized bomb-making equipment and vehicles, the country's defence ministry...

Uganda and Rwanda sign extradition treaty

The foreign ministers of Rwanda and Uganda have just signed an extradition treaty at the conclusion of the summit at the common border presided...

Libya’s LNA says ready to battle Turkish forces if talks fail

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar vowed on Friday to fight Turkish forces if peace talks in Geneva failed, in comments to a Russian news agency.The...

French forces say killed 50 militants in Mali

The French military says it has killed about 50 Islamist militants in Mali. It said one of the dead was a member of the...

Libya’s Haftar ready for ceasefire if Turkish, Syrian mercenaries leave

Libyan National Army (LNA) Commander Khalifa Haftar said he would be ready for a ceasefire if Turkish and Syrian mercenaries left the country and...

Lesotho PM leaves country as murder charges loom

Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has failed to appear in court to face charges of murdering his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane in 2017.An aide...

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -
%d bloggers like this: