Libya: Tripoli denies involvement in drone strikes in east

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The Tripoli-based Libyan government has denied any involvement in drone strikes against a base used by the Russian paramilitary group Wagner that had been reported by a military source in the eastern camp of the divided country, media reported.

The military source, who requested anonymity, said that drone strikes “of unknown origin” had targeted the al-Kharrouba air base on Thursday evening, 150km south-east of Benghazi (east), where “elements of the Wagner group are believed to be based”.

News websites attributed the attack to the armed forces of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, whose legitimacy is disputed by the rival camp in eastern Libya.

“We are surprised by reports (…) of strikes carried out by our aircraft against a base in eastern Libya”, said the Ministry of Defence of the government of national unity, quoted on Friday by the al-Massar channel.

“We are respecting the ceasefire signed in October 2020,” it added.

“None of our aircraft has targeted any site in the eastern region,” said General Mohamad al-Haddad, Chief of Staff of the armed forces in western Libya, quoted by Addresslibya.

This kind of information, he said, “aims to rekindle the war between Libyan brothers and involve Libya in a regional conflict”.

Libya has been in the grip of a major political crisis since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, undermined by divisions between East and West and foreign interference.

From April 2019 to June 2020, Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of Libya’s eastern camp, used Chadian, Sudanese, Nigerian and Syrian fighters, but above all mercenaries from Wagner, in his failed attempt to seize the capital Tripoli.

This failure was followed in October 2020 by a ceasefire agreement, compliance with which is supervised by a military commission comprising five officers from each side.

Since then, hundreds of Wagner members have remained active in the east, in the area of the oil terminals, and in the south of Libya after some of their troops left for Mali or Ukraine to fight alongside the Russian army.

Africanews/Hauwa M.

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