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Haftar warns LNA 'will not sit idly by' after Tripoli clashes

The Libyan marshal has urged people to "repair the situation before it is too late" days after fighting in the Libyan capital
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REUTERS/ESAM OMRAN  -   Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, Libya, on 24 December 2020

After days of violent clashes in Tripoli, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Jalifa Haftar, has issued a warning to all armed groups involved in the fighting in the Libyan capital. "We did not build an army to stand idly by and watch the abusers drag Libya into the abyss," the marshal said during a visit to the southeastern city of Kufra, according to The Libya Update.

"Only the people will save Libya and end its captivity with the protection of the army," Haftar said, stressing that the solution lies "in the hands of the people, who must lead the political process to regain their rights and build their state".

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PHOTO/REUTERS - File photo, troops and vehicles of the national army in Kufra, are seen participating in an "Operation Dignity" mission, on the Libyan-Egyptian border, near Kufra, on June 4, 2014

Haftar stressed the importance and responsibility of Libyan society to bring about change in the country, saying that Libyan citizens "should not expect a foreign political class or party to spare them from their suffering". The marshal also urged the national forces to reorganise themselves "to tip the balance in favour of the people" and pledged that the army would stand by the citizens "today and tomorrow". 

During his speech, Haftar also alluded to political corruption. "Libyans have the right to ask themselves where their country's money is going," he said. "We, the people and the army, have to remedy the situation before it is too late, just as together we have remedied the danger of terrorism," Haftar added. 

According to analysts quoted by Arabi21, Haftar's visit to the south "is an attempt to demonstrate his control over that region", while his "threats" to Libyan politicians are aimed at "gaining support in the south and inciting him against the Dbeibé government".

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AFP/ARIS MESSINIS - Khalifa Haftar during talks with the Greek Foreign Minister in Athens on 17 January 2020

The Libyan marshal's statements come days after the spokesman for Haftar's forces, Ahmed Al-Mismari, indicated that the army does not support or back any of the parties involved in the latest clashes in Tripoli.

Al-Mismari told the Italian news agency NOVA that Haftar's General Command opts for neutrality in the current conflict despite supporting "the legitimacy represented in the House of Representatives". On the other hand, Al-Mismari revealed the LNA's readiness to intervene if the General Command requests it in order to protect the security of the people, reports Al-Arab. 

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AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA - People inspect dead bodies after clashes between supporters of rival governments in Tripoli, Libya's capital, 28 August 2022

The country has been mired in instability and violence since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Following his overthrow, the country was dragged into a civil war that ended in 2020 with a "national and permanent" ceasefire signed by the two warring sides: the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Eastern forces represented by the Tobruk parliament. However, this UN-driven agreement has not been sufficient to achieve the desired political stability in the country

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AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA - Fighters loyal to the National Unity Government appear on a street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on 27 August 2022, following clashes between rival Libyan groups

The situation has deteriorated over the course of the year. After the electoral process collapsed and elections scheduled for December 2021 were postponed indefinitely, the Tobruk Parliament declared the current government of Abdul Hamid Dbeibé illegal for exceeding the deadline set by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), a UN-backed body that selected Dbeibé as head of government to organise the elections, which were never held.

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AFP/MAHMUD TURKIA -  Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah attends a military graduation ceremony in the capital Tripoli on 3 July 2022

In March, the Tobruk parliament appointed a new executive with Fathi Bashagha at its head, although Dbeibé rejected his appointment, saying he would only relinquish power after elections. 

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AFP/ABDULLAH DOMA - Fathi Bashagha, former Interior Minister and current Prime Minister-designate of the Tobruk Parliament

Bashagha, a former interior minister, has tried to enter Tripoli on several occasions. In May, he succeeded, but after several battles between militias loyal to his government and Dbeibé's, he had to leave the capital. However, the Tobruk-appointed prime minister has recently tried again, provoking violent clashes that have left at least 32 dead and 159 wounded, according to the Ministry of Health. 

Although calm has returned to the capital after several days of violence, tensions between the Deibé and Bashagha militias continue and threaten to return to clashes at any time. Haftar's recent statements also point to a possible LNA intervention in case fighting resumes in Tripoli.