Haftar vows attacks on Turkish assets in Libya
AFP, Saturday 29 Jun 2019

The Libyan Commander Khalifa Haftar has threatened to attack Turkish interests in Libya after suffering a serious setback in his push to take the capital Tripoli, accusing Ankara of backing his rivals.

Anti-Libyan National Army (LNA) forces supporting Libya's internationally recognised government announced Wednesday they had retaken the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack, seizing the main supply base for LNA's months-long offensive.

Haftar on Saturday promised a "tough response" and accused militias backing the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) of executing his wounded troops at the town's hospital -- allegations refuted by both the GNA and authorities in Gharyan.

The LNA had been ordered to target Turkish ships and companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in the country, the military spokesman said.

General Ahmed al-Mesmari accused Ankara of "directly" intervening in the battle "with its soldiers, planes and ships".

He accused Turkey of assisting GNA forces in seizing Gharyan, including providing air cover, and accused the town's residents of "treason".

Mesmari said orders had been given to the LNA "air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters".

"Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces," he added.

"All Turkish nationals on Libyan territory will be arrested," he said, and "all flights to and from Turkey will be banned".

Regular flights to Turkey operate from Tripoli's Mitiga airport and a second airport in the western city of Misrata, where forces back the GNA.

Mesmari did not explain how the flight ban could apply to areas not under LNA's control.

The LNA, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country's south, seized Gharyan on April 2, and two days later launched its offensive on Tripoli.

But their initial lightning advance was quickly brought to a standstill in Tripoli's southern outskirts as militias backing the GNA rushed to defend the capital.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country's support for the GNA, saying Ankara was providing weapons to Tripoli under a "military cooperation agreement".

He told reporters on June 19 the Turkish backing had allowed Tripoli to "rebalance" the fight against Haftar.

On Saturday, Erdogan, speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan, said he did not have "any information" concerning Haftar's threat against Turkish assets.

"If there is an order like this from Haftar, my colleagues will study (it). We have already taken the necessary measures regarding this anyway, and after this, we will take much more different measures," he said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.