Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar urged his soldiers to teach unity government forces an “even harder lesson” after launching an offensive to capture Tripoli – an attack that so far has been repelled.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) began the assault on April 4 aimed at deposing the internationally recognised government from the capital.
That set off another deadly escalation in a country mired in violence since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Haftar urged his troops to “uproot” opposing forces from “our beloved country” in a message late on Sunday.
“Officers and soldiers of our armed forces and affiliates, I greet you during these glorious days and call on you to inflict on the enemy, with your force and determination, an even harder and bigger lesson than before,” Haftar wrote in a message read out by LNA spokesman General Ahmad al-Mesmari.
Forces backing the Government of National Accord (GNA) recently launched a counter-offensive against the LNA, leading to a stalemate on the southern outskirts of the capital.
Haftar’s message also vowed that “in the event of a retreat by the enemy, troops should pursue it with speed and force, prevent it from fleeing and wipe it out” with support from LNA air forces.
“Respect the lives of citizens and their goods,” the message added. “Carry out the orders of this letter and those of your superiors.”
The GNA’s status with world powers, meanwhile, is increasingly shaky.
US President Donald Trump, in a phone call with the LNA’s leader last month “recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”, according to the White House.
Closer to home, Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Since April 4, fighting between the LNA and forces backing the GNA has killed at least 432 people, wounded 2,069 and displaced more than 50,000, according to the UN.
The North African country has been in a state of chaos since the long-time leader Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 with Western intervention.