17 April 2019

Libya: At Least Two Killed in Shelling On Tripoli As Foreign Powers Unable to Agree On Libya

Photo: Al Jazeera English/YouTube
Forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar and Libya’s UN-based government fight for control of the capital.

At least two people have been killed in shelling in Tripoli, nearly two weeks into an assault on the Libyan capital by the Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar. Foreign powers have been unable to present a united front in the face of the latest violence in the country.

Haftar's LNA is stuck in the outskirts of Tripoli, to the south, battling armed groups loyal to the internationally-recognised Tripoli government. But people were killed in shelling in the southern district of Abu Salim on Tuesday, and explosions were heard even in the city centre. One official said two people were killed and eight wounded, another said four had been killed and 20 wounded.

Forces allied to Tripoli have accused the LNA of firing rockets into residential areas, but the LNA said in a statement it had nothing to with the shelling, and blamed it on a Tripoli-based group.

The true face of Libya's Khalifa Haftar

Haftar has declared he wants to seize the capital, now controlled by a UN-recognized government and an array of militias.

At least 174 people have been killed and more than 18,000 displaced since his forces started a march on Tripoli on 4 April, according to UN figures.

Foreign powers divided

Haftar is seen by allies as a bulwark against Islamists. He presents himself as a champion against terrorism, though opponents cast him as a would-be dictator.

Russia and France have praised Haftar's battlefield successes in defeating armed groups aligned with the Islamic State armed group in the south of Libya. French has been reluctant to back a recent European Union resolution urging Haftar to halt his advance.

Russia has raised objections to references criticizing Haftar in a draft UN Security Council resolution, which could be a hurdle for bringing the resolution to a vote before Friday. The Security Council held a first round of negotiations on Tuesday on a British-drafted resolution that would demand a ceasefire in Libya and call on all countries with influence over the warring parties to push for compliance.

Qatar, meanwhile, called for an existing UN arms embargo on Libya to be strictly enforced, to prevent Haftar from receiving arms. Haftar is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who view him as a way to restore stability and fight Islamist militants. The three countries cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of support for militants and Iran.

Haftar's offensive on Tripoli has forced the UN to postpone a national conference that was to draw up a roadmap to elections. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that serious negotiations on Libya's future cannot resume without a ceasefire.

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