Libya crisis: General Haftar tells forces to take capital

REUTERS  Philippe Wojazer  File

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar were pushed back Friday from a key checkpoint less than 30 kilometres from Tripoli, checking their lightning advance on the capital, a security source said.

Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said in a statement on Saturday it was carrying out an operation to secure Tripoli's former global airport, which sits some 30km south of the city, and would later use it as a launching point for missions aimed at seizing key sites within the capital.

Hifter's media office says Saturday that troops also captured the area of Wadi el-Rabeia, south of Tripoli, amid clashed with rival militias. He brought his troops closer to Tripoli, which is controlled by the UN-backed Presidential Council and Government of National Accord and supporting militias.

Haftar then ordered his forces to march on the capital, saying in an audio recording posted online: "We are coming Tripoli, we are coming".

The UN Security Council held an emergency closed-door meeting on Friday at Britain's request and called on Haftar's forces to halt all military movements.

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Haftar must heed global warnings to halt his advance on Tripoli or else "we will see what can be done". "I hope that people, acting out of economic or business self-interest, is not looking for a military solution, which would be devastating", Salvini said.

At a G7 meeting in France, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he and his counterparts had agreed they must exert pressure on those responsible for the upsurge of fighting in Libya, especially Haftar. Guterres has insisted that Libya needs a political solution, not a military one, and said the U.N.is available to facilitate a peace process. - The militiamen retook the base after a "short exchange of fire", the source said April 5 on condition of anonymity.

In December Haftar met Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj from the UN-backed government at a conference but refused to attend official talks.

The moves by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) force, which is allied to a parallel administration based in the east, escalated a power struggle that has splintered the nation since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Analysts say the advance by Haftar's forces comes at a key moment as the United Nations bids to get elections back on track after an abortive effort previous year.

Just a single armoured vehicle was seen; the allegiance of its occupants was not immediately clear.

The 2011 NATO-supported uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi led to chaos in Libya.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs is asking Filipinos in Tripoli to exercise extreme caution in view of the continuing tensions near the capital and specifically called on Filipinos living within a 100 kilometer radius of the Libyan capital to remain vigilant", the department said in a statement.

Russia, which has in the past shown support for Field Marshall Haftar, called on Saturday for an end to the fighting, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling for a Libyan political settlement while on a visit to Cairo.

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