Libya: Warlord Haftar’s Forces Deny Arresting Turkish Citizens

Libyan strongman Haftar a reluctant key player in crisis talks
AFP/Filippo MONTEFORTE

Fighters loyal to renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Libya this week denied Turkey’s claims that they arrested six Turks over the weekend.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is fighting on behalf of the breakaway government based in eastern Libya’s Tobruk region. In April, the warlord and his eastern forces launched an offensive to push the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), brokered by the United Nations, out of its home base in the capital of Tripoli.

Over the weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration demanded that the LNA “immediately” release six Turkish nationals allegedly arrested in Libya to avoid a military response.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the LNA denied detaining “any foreign or Turkish citizens, adding that local authorities of the [eastern-based] interim government in Ajdabiya had stopped two Turkish people to verify their presence and then released them immediately,” Al Arabiya reports.

“We have no authority to arrest any Turkish resident in the country,” LNA Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Mismari told the Arabic weekly newspaper Al Hadath on Monday, Al Arabiya adds.

The general stressed that Turkey stands against the LNA.

“Turkey stepped up against the Libyan National Army after we accused it of supporting terrorism … Tripoli has become a center for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by President Erdogan,” he said.

“The Turkish people should put pressure on the Turkish President’s war in our country,” Gen. Mismari added. “We will call upon the international community to prevent foreign intervention in Libya.”

In April, the LNA accused Turkey of backing the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Libya, once home to the jihadi group’s largest stronghold outside Iraq and Syria.

Russia and several Muslim-majority countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt — have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). 

The United States is considering following suit. In contrast, NATO member Turkey is considered one of MB’s most ardent supporters.

Assisted by Russia, Egypt, France, and the UAE, Haftar and his troops have taken over most of Libya. Haftar’s foreign supporters believe the LNA can effectively combat jihadi groups in the North African country, as they have done in the past, and restore stability.

Since the U.S.-backed overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has descended into chaos with two rival governments and their militias vying for territory and influence as Islamic terrorists cultivate and expand their presence in the country.

On Monday, the LNA revealed plans to start “heavy airstrikes” against the troops loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, urging residents to avoid those forces and their camps.

LNA “Commander Mohamed Manfour said the air campaign came after ‘traditional means’ of war had been exhausted to ‘liberate’ Tripoli, which is under the control of the country’s UN-recognized government,” Al Arabiya reports.

The U.N. and independent human rights groups have accused Haftar’s LNA of war crimes against civilians.

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