Libyan warring parties claim no coronavirus cases despite foreign fighters

Police enforce a coronavirus curfew in Misrata, Libya, March 22. (Reuters)

Neither of the two main warring parties in Libya has reported any cases of coronavirus in the country despite foreign fighters recently arriving to the instability-plagued North African nation.

Libya has been in a state of conflict and instability since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country is currently divided between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by Turkey and based in the capital Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the eastern city of Benghazi and led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

As the coronavirus pandemic has swept the world, with infections reported in all of Libya’s neighbors, neither the GNA or the LNA has officially reported any cases of coronavirus. Given the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus, observers have voiced concern that the lack of cases is inaccurate and reflects a lack of testing facilities.

“No wonder that two countries - Libya and Yemen - thrown and kept in continuing war and chaos don’t have the health facilities to even report on coronavirus cases,” wrote one user on Twitter.

No wonder that two countries - Libya and Yemen - thrown and kept in continuing war and chaos don't have the health facilities to even report on coronavirus cases.

One might add South Sudan and Zimbabwe - the latter under US sanctions since 2003. pic.twitter.com/BrgycFbdyR

— Our Hidden History (@OurHiddenHistry) March 23, 2020

Both the GNA and the Benghazi-based Libyan administration supported by the LNA have declared coronavirus curfews despite the lack of reported cases.

The GNA declared on Sunday a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the closure of public spaces as well as restaurants, cafes and party halls. It has also banned funeral and wedding ceremonies. The Benghazi-based administration had previously enforced its own nighttime curfew in areas it controlled on Thursday.

Libyans have been pictured wearing face masks despite the lack of reported cases.

Men wear face masks at a bank in Libya, March 22. (Reuters)

Men wear face masks at a bank in Libya, March 22. (Reuters)

Fears that foreign fighters could bring coronavirus

Foreign fighters from a variety of countries with coronavirus cases are allegedly fighting on both sides in Libya, sparking fears that they could have transmitted the virus from abroad.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian militants have been sent to Libya in support of the GNA after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a deal with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The deal reiterated Turkey’s support for the GNA in return for it backing Turkey’s claims to maritime rights over vast swaths of the eastern Mediterranean.

The GNA has also accused the LNA of bringing in foreign fighters. According to a report in the British newspaper The Financial Times, the GNA alleges that Syria’s Cham Wings airlines has brought Syrian fighters to Libya who could pose health risks.

The GNA itself has been accused of having links to extremist militias trained by Turkey in Libya and bringing in Syrian fighters, including ISIS members who escaped from prison when Turkey attacked Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria.

Libya’s neighbors Algeria and Tunisia have both declared curfews as they seek to slow the spread of coronavirus in their countries.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:05 - GMT 07:05
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