Turkey warns it will target Haftar forces if attacks on interests in Libya continue

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Turkey’s foreign ministry warned on Sunday that it would deem the forces of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar legitimate targets if their attacks on its interests and diplomatic missions in Libya continued.

Turkey backs Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj and views Haftar’s forces as “putschists.”

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that “if our missions and our interests in Libya are targeted, we will deem Haftar’s forces legitimate targets.”

The North African state has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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Al-Sarraj relies on a plethora of militia, including extremist and terrorist groups, formed in and after the 2011 uprising.

According to sources, Turkey had been training Syrian factions to fight in Libya, while Syrians holding Turkish citizenship were leading the militant factions in Libya.

Turkey had trained four groups of Syrians, with each group consisting of 35 militants specialized in urban warfare.

Some of these militants had intensive experience as they had fought alongside the Turkish army in Syria, while others participated in military training inside Turkey.

The sources pointed to an agreement between Turkey and the GNA which guarantees that Turkey receives funding for the entire period their military forces are present inside Libya.

According to the United Nations, Turkey has already supplied military equipment to forces loyal to the GNA, including tanks and drones.

Haftar has so far drawn his legitimacy from the administration based in the country’s east, and in April 2019 his forces launched an assault to seize the capital Tripoli, in the west, from the GNA.

On April 28, Haftar said he had “a popular mandate” to govern the country, declaring a key 2015 political deal over and vowing to press his assault to seize Tripoli.

In a speech on Libya al-Hadath TV channel, he said the LNA was “proud to be mandated with the historic task” of leading Libya.

On Friday, the LNA said it had shot down a Turkish drone close to the al-Watiya airbase southwest of the capital, according to an official statement.

- With Reuters

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