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Tripoli offensive aims to clear terrorism: Rebel spokesman

Shoes are pictured in a house damaged by shelling during the fighting between the eastern forces and internationally recognized government is pictured in Abu Salim in Tripoli, Libya. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Tripoli, Libya Apr 17, 2019, 10.23 AM (IST)

The Tripoli offensive led by Khalifa Haftar aims to clear terrorists out of Libya, and the offensive will not stop until victory, spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) has said.

A total of 174 people were killed and 756 others wounded in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

The east-based LNA led by rebel Gen. Khalifa Haftar has been implementing the military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli, where the UN-backed government is based.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011.

Libya's UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Serraj on Tuesday said that Haftar has "brought violence into the country and frustrated all hopes of the Libyans."

However, spokesman Mesmari of the self-proclaimed LNA said that the main reason for the current unrest in Libya is the interference from the outside world.

"The main reasons are NATO and the international community, that entered Libya in 2011 and then left the country as a target for terrorists. And I think, no, I can confirm, that there are more countries behind it," the spokesman said recently during an exclusive interview with the China Central Television (CCTV).

Mesmari said the LNA's westward advance had been long planned and delayed before by a shortage of weapons, and the operation aims to clear out terrorist groups in Libya.

"This battle comes within the framework of a comprehensive war on terrorism. In 2014, the decision was made to purge the country of terrorist organizations, gangs and armed groups. Government of National Accord (GNA) is now a completely paralyzed government whose decisions are now invalid," said Mesmari.

The internationally-recognized GNA led by Prime Minister Serraj said the only condition for a truce is for the LNA to withdraw to its eastern stronghold, but the LNA said it will not stop the offensive until victory.

"We know that the battle is very large and we also know that the battle is decisive and therefore we take all the measures to accomplish this task successfully, Second, we have taken all the measures through which we protect lives and civilians as well as public and private property," said Mesmari.

He said that terrorist groups must be eliminated before rebuilding Libya, which must fall to Libya's new leaders.
 

Story highlights

A total of 174 people were killed and 756 others wounded in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.