In meeting with Haftar, Sisi underlines support for 'efforts to combat terrorism'

Libyan speaker of parliament said the LNA's forces will pursue their advance on the capital Tripoli.
Monday 15/04/2019
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt April 14, 2019. (Reuters)
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt April 14, 2019. (Reuters)

LONDON - As he pressed on his campaign to take control of Tripoli, Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar received implicit backing from Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for the Libyan National Army's campaign against "terrorist groups" and "extremist militias."

A statement from Sisi's office did not mention Haftar's offensive directly but "confirmed Egypt's support for efforts to combat terrorism and extremist groups and militias in order to achieve security and stability for Libyan citizens."

Sisi received Haftar in Cairo Sunday. Unconfirmed reports said Haftar had previously held talks in Moscow.

Egypt has close ties with Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) controls the east and has swept through the mainly desert south earlier this year before moving to Tripoli April 4.

The Egyptian presidency released photos showing Haftar, dressed in a blue suit, sitting with Sisi and his head of intelligence Abbas Kamel.

The LNA, led by Haftar, continued its offensive against the vast array of militias backing the Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

LNA's spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari said the attacking forces were "moving forward on all fronts."

He reiterated his claim that "terrorists" and "criminals" were fighting on the side of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) forces.

Mesmari accused Turkey and the former regime of Hassan al-Bashir of having provided support to the anti-LNA militias

He said foreign fighters, including former al-Nusra militants in Syria, are being transported to Libya by Turkey. He added that he expected suicide attacks by extremists to escalate in Libya. Recent reported mentioned a recent attempt on the life of Adel Marfoua, the head of anti-terrorism in Benghazi.

"The decision is no longer in Sarraj's hands," added Mesmari. "It is in the hands of terrorists now."

The European Union had expressed its "concern" on April 12 at the involvement of "terrorist and criminal elements" in the fighting.  French diplomatic sources have accused the GNA of being backed by UN-sanctioned extremist elements.

On April 13, Sarraj rejected the "misinformation campaign by some parties that our forces include fighters belonging to terrorist organisations and groups."

But Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) allied to Haftar,  reiterated the accusations of extremist support to Sarraj's forces. "We need to get rid of militias and terrorist groups," he said adding that the LNA's forces will pursue their advance on the capital Tripoli.

"We assure the residents of Tripoli that the campaign to liberate Tripoli will be limited and not violate any freedoms but restore security and fight terrorism," he told lawmakers in a House of Representatives (HoR) session in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

"The Libyan army has a mission in Tripoli and it will protect people's lives and properties. The army is the only guarantee for a civilian state and democratic transition in Libya," Saleh said.

He added the "Libyan people will go to the polls to find  a solution to the country's crisis as soon as the militias lay down their arms."

Both sides have launched daily air raids and accuse each other of targeting civilians.

On Sunday, the UN mission in Libya warned that international humanitarian law "prohibits the bombing of schools, hospitals, ambulances and civilian areas."

The LNA accused the Tripoli-based forces of an air raid "targeting civilians" in the Gasr Ben Ghachir region south of Tripoli.

(With wires services)