Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Forces From Rival General Attack Base South of Libyan Coast

Warplanes under the command of a rival Libyan army general have attacked an air base under the control of the U.N.-backed government in a central area south of the country’s Mediterranean coast, officials said Wednesday.

In a statement late Tuesday, the Tripoli-based government said “several” government-allied troops were wounded when an aircraft they were traveling in was struck in the attack by the eastern-based forces.

Libya fell into chaos following the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It remains divided between east and west, with no effective government and a multitude of rival factions and militias.

Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, the military strongman in question, answers to Libya’s parliament that is based in the east. That parliament does not recognize the U.N.-brokered Tripoli government.

Internal conflicts are escalating even as Islamic State militants have been driven out of the central coastal city of Sirte, which had been the extremist group’s last bastion in the country.

The Libyan National Army, led by Hifter, said the attacks hit Al Jufra Air Base in Waddan on Tuesday and Wednesday, destroying a C-130 military aircraft that was carrying ammunitions and forces loyal to Misrata militias when it landed. The army said a militia leadership meeting also was struck, resulting in one killed and eight wounded. The militias nominally back the Tripoli government and are thought to receive arms from Turkey.

Withdraw or face more attacks

At a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi, Colonel Ahmed Mosmary, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army, demanded the militias withdraw from the south or face continued attacks.

In a statement Wednesday that did not mention the attacks specifically, the U.N.’s envoy to Libya warned against the risk of escalation leading to renewed conflict in the North African nation.

“I urge all parties to act with restraint and to resolve issues through peaceful dialogue,” Martin Kobler said, urging renewed efforts to find solutions to the political crisis and the Tripoli government’s difficulties in exercising authority over the country.

On Monday, Musa al-Koni, a prominent member of the presidential council of the U.N.-backed government, resigned, citing the inability of the government to rule the country — a major blow to the fledgling body.

Last week, the deputy head of the presidential council, Fathi al-Mijabri, issued a decree to appoint one of his loyal supporters as the head of the intelligence services, stoking the ire of other members who called his move illegal.

In a separate televised news conference, also Wednesday, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj rescinded recent decrees issued by al-Mijabri, including all appointments of security officials, and urged al-Koni to reconsider his departure.

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