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Iran Press TV

'Militia loyal to renegade general in Libya seize coastal city'

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 07 January 2020 7:10 AM

Militia members operating under the command of a renegade general in Libya have reportedly seized control of the coastal city of Sirte, as Turkey has started deploying troops to support the internationally-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli.

Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for General Khalifa Haftar's self-styled forces, said Sirte, which lies some 450 kilometers east of the capital, "has been totally liberated."

He said the militia took over the city after an operation that "lasted only three hours."

However, airstrikes on government forces near the city had started months earlier.

Al-Mesmari said Haftar's forces struck the city from five land and sea positions and had aerial cover, without elaborating.

Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

The Libyan government did not immediately confirm the fall of Sirte.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps: one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the other, the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, in the capital, Tripoli.

Haftar is the self-proclaimed commander of an array of militia groups apparently supporting the eastern camp. In April, he launched an offensive to capture Tripoli and oust the government, which recently sought help from Turkey.

Last Thursday, Turkey's parliament passed a bill allowing the government to deploy troops to Libya. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Sunday that Turkish soldiers had started deploying in Libya.

UN calls for end to foreign interference

Meanwhile, Ghassan Salameh, the United Nations (UN)'s special representative for Libya, urged countries to stop interfering in Libyan affairs.

He made the call after he briefed the UN Security Council in closed consultations on Monday.

"There is enough weapons in Libya, they don't need extra weapons. There are enough mercenaries in Libya, so stop sending mercenaries as is the case right now, with hundreds, probably thousands, coming into the country of late. So, yes, stop all kinds of foreign interference," he told reporters.

There have been reports that Turkey has considered sending militants from an allied, anti-government militia group in Syria to Libya to shore up the Libyan government.

Libya has been the scene of chaos since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.

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