Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar has accused Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of sending Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists to an Italian military hospital for treatment without informing the Italian mission.
The accusation was launched Friday in a televised speech by Gen. Khalid al Mahjoub, a spokesman for the Haftar Army, which has been carrying on a siege against the Libyan capital of Tripoli since April 4. Among Haftar’s state supporters are Russia, France, and neighboring Egypt.
Al-Sarraj, who heads the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), warned last week that as many as 800,000 more migrants could be driven into Europe unless the offensive by Haftar ends soon.
The prime minister also expressed concerns that the conflict could facilitate the escape of some 400 Islamic State militants currently held in Libyan prisons, prompting Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to reiterate the need for strict border controls.
“The problem is that in Libya there are thousands of Islamic terrorists,” Salvini said on national radio. “The risk of infiltration on boats is a certainty.”
According to Mahjoub, Haftar’s forces have acquired intelligence information suggesting that “terrorist elements wanted at the world level, including ISIS jihadists, are receiving care in the Italian hospital in the city of Misrata,” a port city east of Tripoli.
In the broadcast, the spokesman proceeded to name several internationally wanted terrorists, claiming they are Islamic State jihadists fighting in the GNA Army who were injured in combat and subsequently taken to the Italian hospital: Mohammed Abdul Ghani al Zuberi, Hassan Abdel Wadoud, and Aymen Tahern al Iskandarani.
Along with the alleged ISIS militants, Mahjoub also named Abu Leith as belonging to the Islamist al-Qaeda terror group in the Maghreb region as well as two other injured soldiers who purportedly belong to Beit al-Maqdis, an extremist group affiliated with ISIS and active in the Egyptian Sinai.
Haftar’s spokesman urged the GNA to inform the Italians of the matter “because the Italian forces set up that field hospital to fight terrorism and not to abet it.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome