Libya’s government denied reports it is responsible for drone attacks that hit an airbase in the east used by mercenaries of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
The origin of the early Friday attack on the Al-Kharruba airbase, 150km (90 miles) southwest of Benghazi, was unclear but it caused no casualties.
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Army Chief of Staff General Mohamad al-Haddad denied the Tripoli-based authorities had anything to do with the raid.
“None of our aircraft targeted any site in the east,” al-Haddad said, according to the Libyan news website Addresslibya. “These reports are aimed at stoking a new war between Libyan brothers and involving Libya in a regional conflict.”
Reports carried by Libyan and Arab news websites said the air raids were launched from aircraft belonging to the UN-recognised government in divided Libya.
“We are surprised by the reports,” the defence ministry said, according to Libya’s Al-Massar television. “We respect the ceasefire signed in October 2020.”
The ministry was referring to a truce with eastern-based General Khalifa Haftar that put an end to his abortive 2019-2020 assault on the capital.
Fighters from the Wagner group, alongside others from Chad, Sudan, Niger and Syria, helped Haftar in the battle for Tripoli.
Wagner mercenaries remain active in oil-rich eastern Libya as well as the country’s south, though some left to fight in Mali or in Ukraine, supporting the Russian army’s invasion.
Libya has been torn by more than a decade of stop-start conflict since a 2011 revolt toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi, which has also drawn in multiple foreign powers.
The North African country remains split between the interim government based in Tripoli in the west, and another in the east backed by Haftar.