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Libya's Haftar urges troops to 'wipe out' opponents during Ramadan

Haftar called on his troops to teach the opposition a harder lesson during Ramadan [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 May, 2019

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Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar urged his troops to inflict 'an even harder' lesson on forces in Tripoli during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive against Tripoli last month, urged his troops to inflict "an even harder" lesson on forces loyal to the country's internationally-recognised government during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"Officers and soldiers of our armed forces and affiliates, I greet you during these glorious days and call on you to inflict on the enemy, with your force and determination, an even harder and bigger lesson than before," he wrote in a message to his troops.

"We know you can do it... (and) uproot it (the opposing forces) from our beloved country", Haftar's message added, read out by the self-styled Libyan National Army's spokesman General Ahmad al-Mesmari late on Sunday.

Haftar's LNA began its offensive against the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on 4 April.

Forces loyal to the GNA have since launched a counter-offensive, leading to a stalemate on the ground on the southern outskirts of the capital. 

Haftar's message also urged his men that "in the event of retreat by the enemy, troops should pursue it with speed and force, prevent it from fleeing and wipe it out".    

"Air forces should follow up" the action of troops on the ground, he added.

"Respect the lives of citizens and their goods. Carry out the orders of this letter and those of your superiors," the message went on.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the ouster and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with Haftar supporting a rival administration in the east of the country.

The strongman's message came just a few hours after the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called for "an extendable one-week humanitarian truce starting at four in the morning" on Monday, to mark the beginning of Ramadan.  

Around 400 people have been killed in clashes since Haftar launched an offensive against the seat of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.

The UN mission in the country proposed the "extendable one-week" ceasefire "during which all parties pledge to halt all forms of military operations" in a statement on Sunday.

It called on the warring sides to "allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need" and use the truce to exchange prisoners and bodies of those killed in the clashes.

The flare-up in fighting has displaced some 55,000 and sparked fears of a humanitarian crisis as civilians remain trapped in the conflict zone.

The UN voiced concern over a breakdown in basic services, including electricity and water supplies, and said more relief funds were needed for Libya.

"We appealed for an additional 10.2 million (dollars) which doesn't cover all that we foresee... but it covers at least the essential response for the first three, four weeks," she said.

During the first week of fighting, a UN official said "over a million schoolbooks" that were stored in a warehouse of the ministry of education were destroyed when the compound was hit. 

"Symbolically, it says a lot about the impact of such strife and clashes on not just the immediate survival of people but on the future of Tripoli children."

Haftar's offensive has sharpened fault lines in policy towards Libya among world powers.

On 18  April, Russia and the US opposed a British bid backed by France and Germany at the UN Security Council to demand a ceasefire in the North African country.

The White House revealed the next day that Donald Trump had reached out personally to Haftar in a phone call, during which the US president "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources".

The UAE - along with Egypt and France - support Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, who they consider a bulwark against Islamist militants. A 2017 UN report said the Gulf state provided his eastern-based LNA with military and logistical support.

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