Eastern Libya forces move west, talk about 'terrorism' mission
Forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar have moved forces toward western Libya in a possible mission to “liberate the homeland from “terrorism”, officials said on Wednesday, suggesting Tripoli was a desirable destination, ONAreports citing Reuters.
The deployment and rhetoric are likely to alarm the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, whose Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj has been negotiating over a power-sharing deal with a parallel administration in the east that is allied to Haftar.
Ahmed Mismari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA) force controlling eastern Libya, did not say directly whether his force would move on Tripoli in western Libya controlled by the internationally recognized government opposing a parallel administration in the east.
But he said the LNA was gathering forces for a possible mission “to liberate the homeland from terrorism.”
“We expect the women of Tripoli to welcome the Libyan army like the women of Benghazi and Derna did,” he said, referring to two eastern cities which the LNA took by force.
He also called on young people in Tripoli to focus on the battle between LNA and Daesh, or Islamic State, in another hint that military action might be looming.
A video released by the LNA media office showed a convoy of armored vehicles and pickup trucks mounted with heavy guns on the road.
“In fulfillment of his (Haftar) orders, several military units moved to the western region to purge the remaining terrorist groups located in their last hideouts,” the LNA said in a statement with the video.
It gave no details but the area appears to be the coastal road linking the eastern city of Benghazi, the LNA main base, with Tripoli.
A resident in Ras Lanuf, an oil town located on the coastal road, said tanks and military convoys were seen heading westwards in the direction of Sirte.
Sirte is in central Libya controlled by a force from the western city of Mistrata allied to the Tripoli administration.
In January, the LNA, which is loyal to Haftar, started a campaign to take control of the south and its oilfields.
The United Nations is holding a conference this month in the southwestern city of Ghadames to discuss a political solution to prepare the country for elections and to avoid a military showdown.
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