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Libyan strongman Haftar calls Italians 'enemies', threatens move towards Tripoli

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar at a military parade in Benghazi [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2018

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Italy supports the UN-backed General National Assembly (GNA) government in Tripoli, which Haftar's LNA is at odds with.

The head of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar has called Italians "enemies", according to a Saturday tweet by its spokesman.

The most powerful military commander in the country also threatened to "move towards" the capital Tripoli, which has seen weeks of clashes that has left dozens dead.

"We are not alone in this world. Yes, we can sit and agree on what is in favour of Libya, but now it has reached a stage of worshipping when we find Libyans speaking on behalf of Italy despite that those are enemies," one of a series of tweets read.

Italy supports the UN-backed General National Assembly (GNA) government in Tripoli, which Haftar's LNA is at odds with. But the GNA, which has been unable to form a functioning army or regular security forces, has been forced to rely on militias to keep Tripoli safe.

"Tripoli must be liberated and will not remain in spoiled hands. The armed forces moves after accurate calculations. We will move towards Tripoli in the proper time," Field Marshal Haftar was quoted as saying.

The LNA's forces, which back the rival administration in Tobruk, located in Libya's east, have not been involved in the recent clashes in Tripoli. 

Libya has been divided between the unity government in Tripoli and the Tobruk government since the 2011 NATO-backed ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. 

A myriad of militias, jihadist groups and people traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos.

In May, four of Libya's key power bases - including Haftar and chairman of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj - agreed to hold presidential elections in December. But an electoral law has not been reached yet. 

European countries also back rival factions in Libya's war, with France showing sympathy to Field Marshal Haftar and his LNA.

France remains at loggerheads with Italy over the migration issue, which has seen Italy bear most of the brunt. The far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has also blasted France for backing the 2011 uprising that toppled Gaddafi.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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