Published: Tue, April 09, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Libya fighting escalates as Khalifa Haftar's forces bomb Tripoli airport

Libya fighting escalates as Khalifa Haftar's forces bomb Tripoli airport

Maj. Gen. Mohamed al-Manfour of Hifter's Libyan National Army, told the Libyan Address newspaper they bombed targets at Mitiga after receiving information that the United Nations -backed government forces were preparing to target them.

The conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration to Europe and scupper hopes for an election to end rivalries between parallel administrations in east and west.

A member of Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, is seen as he heads out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 7, 2019.

Allied groups from Misrata down the coast have been moving pickup trucks fitted with machine guns into Tripoli.

"As of yesterday and today, Monday, Haftar forces have been pushed back and Tripoli secured".

Seizing the capital, however, is a much bigger challenge.

There is also fighting around Tripoli's global airport, 15 miles south of the city center, which has not been operational for years.

On Sunday, April 7, Russian Federation blocked proposals for the council to adopt a formal statement, instead insisting that all Libyan forces be urged to stop fighting, diplomats said.

On Sunday evening, LNA forces had moved up from the airport coming as close as 11 km (seven miles) to the city centre before retreating, residents said.

A Reuters correspondent in the city centre could hear gunfire in the distance southwards.

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Al-Sarraj has been heading the Tripoli government since 2016 under a UN-mediated agreement, which Haftar has boycotted.

The death toll - higher than that given by either side yet - appeared to be mainly fighters, although it also included some civilians including two doctors, World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a Geneva news briefing.

There have been no immediate reports of casualties and damages.

"The United Nations continues to call for a temporary humanitarian truce to allow for the provision of emergency services and the voluntary passage of civilians, including those wounded, from areas of conflict", it said in a statement.

Dozens of people have been killed and thousands displaced in the fighting since Haftar's forces launched their onslaught against Tripoli and its unity government on Thursday, April 4.

The violence has cast doubt on the United Nations plan to hold a conference from 14 to 16 April to arrange for the elections, as a way out of the ongoing chaos since Gaddafi's ousting under Western support eight years ago.

As well as the UN, the European Union, United States and G7 bloc have all urged a ceasefire, a halt to Mr Haftar's advance and return to negotiations.

Haftar casts himself as a foe of extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mould of Gaddafi, whose 40 years rule saw torture, disappearances and assassinations.

The LNA said on Monday that 19 of its soldiers had been killed in recent days.

Spokesman Colonel Mohamed Gnounou said it was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces", in reference to Haftar's fighters.

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