Can Libya's strongman Haftar capture Tripoli?


The forces of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli have launched a counteroffensive against the advancing troops of the rival Tobruk-based government, the army's spokesperson, Mohammed Gununu, declared on Sunday.

Col. Mohamed Gnounou, a spokesman for GNA forces, said in televised comments Sunday that the counteroffensive, dubbed "Volcano of Anger", was aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces".

He did not provide details on the number of US troops that have been withdrawn or on how many remain inside the country.

In the past, Haftar has struck deals with armed factions outside Tripoli to advance his forces.

On Saturday he said pro-Haftar fighters were "progressing on several planned" and that Tripoli would soon be captured.

Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army launched the assault on Thursday as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres visited Tripoli ahead of a planned conference later this month to hammer out a roadmap for delayed parliamentary and presidential elections.

General Haftar - who was appointed chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) under an earlier UN-backed administration - ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli on Thursday, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was in the city to discuss the ongoing crisis. Resulting from years-long civil conflict, Libya has no single government now, with LNA backing the Tobruk-based parliament which governs the East of Libya, and the GNA which controls Libya's western parts from Tripoli, reports Sputnik.

Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government arrive in Tajura, a coastal suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on 6 April, 2019.

Waldhauser did not discuss where the USA forces have been relocated.

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The offensive threatens to throw Libya into full-blown civil war and usher in the most significant escalation of violence since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi by a popular rebellion backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation airstrikes.

Armed groups allied to the Tripoli government have moved more machinegun-mounted pickup trucks to defend Tripoli from Misrata down the coast.

"I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli", Guterres tweeted.

A similar stance was taken by the UN Security Council which, following a closed-door emergency meeting Friday, said those responsible for re-igniting the conflict will be held responsible.

Despite the Tripoli flare-up, United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame insisted the April 14-16 talks in the Libyan city of Ghadames would go ahead.

"We are determined" to hold the talks, he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there should be pressure on all the actors in Libya "especially general Haftar".

But UN envoy Ghassan Salame insisted on Saturday the April 14-16 conference would go ahead.