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Tripoli launches operation to push back Haftar

Tripoli launches operation to push back Haftar

Clashes were reported near Tripoli, the Libyan capital, after Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general who controls the east of the country and its southern oilfields, launched an offensive against the internationally recognised government.

Haftar ordered his Libyan National Army (LNA) to advance on Tripoli on Thursday, following years of rivalry with the UN-recognized government.

"Fighting is still ongoing on in Qasr bin Ghashir area near Tripoli", Bashaga said.

According to Reuters, the US provided air support to Libyan forces fighting ISIS in 2016 and continued to launch strikes on suspected militants there after the end of that campaign.

The source, who preferred anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media, attributed losing some areas to Haftar due to "the disorganization and confusion of the forces".

Haftar said "the time has come" to take Tripoli in an audio message released on Thursday, pledging to spare civilians and "state institutions".

Haftar told Bogdanov about what he described as efforts to fight terrorists in Libya, including near Tripoli, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The LNA's move on Tripoli has escalated a power struggle that has splintered Libya into a patchwork of competing power bases since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since then, the country's stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in the eastern city of Al-Bayda, to which Haftar is linked, and another in Tripoli.

Experts say Haftar had backing from Egypt, which shares a 1,115 kilometre border with Libya, as well Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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"At this sensitive moment in Libya's transition, military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos", the statement, issued by the U.S. state department, said. "We all agreed", he told reporters.

These included an accusation from Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini that France is worsening Libya's chaos to help its oil interests: "In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy", Mr Salvini said in January.

The violence came as the United Nations chief wrapped up his visit on Friday aimed at avoiding an expanded conflict and said he left with a "heavy heart and deep concern".

Asked if sanctions could be imposed against Haftar were he to fail to comply with the demands of the worldwide community, he replied: "We have stated quite clearly what our position is and we very much hope that he [Haftar] will take it into consideration". Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said: "There is a fundamental principle in Libya".

Residents of Tripoli, inured to the ups and downs of the conflicts and rivalries which have ravaged the country since 2011 when long-term ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was ousted with the help of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation airpower, were clearly disturbed by Haftar's LNA advances.

The U.N. Security Council, which met behind closed doors on Friday, has also called on Libyan National Army forces to cease their advances.

The European Union issued its own statement calling on "decision makers" to "act responsibly and finally put the national interest first", in a coded reference to both General Haftar and to Tripoli militia commanders.

The move was part of an operation called "Flood of Dignity" and the Libyan National Army (LNA) would not stop until the mission was over, spokesman Ahmed Al-Mismari said at a press conference.

Amid the escalating tension, an array of worldwide leaders and organisations have called for all parties to put an end to the ongoing conflict and instead focus their efforts on establishing a roadmap towards elections to resolve Libya's prolonged instability.

A fighter under the United Nations backed government prepares his gun during clashes in southern Tripoli, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

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