Libya’s Tripoli militias boast of Turkish weapons shipment despite UN embargo

The forces posted the pictures to their official “Volcano of Anger” Facebook page

A fighter loyal to Libyan internationally recognised government fires a heavy machine gun during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar at outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Libyan forces loyal to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli said they received a shipment of weapons and armoured vehicles after announcing that Turkey would help fend off an assault on the capital by eastern leader Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The news comes after United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly urged all countries to enforce the arms embargo on Libya, saying preventing the proliferation of weapons is important to end fighting and restore stability in the country.

Forces loyal to the Government of National Accord published pictures on their official "Volcano of Anger" Facebook page of what appeared to be Turkish-made Kirpi combat vehicles. They also received ammunition and "quality weapons", the group said in the Facebook post. A spokesman for the Turkish presidency was not immediately available for comment.

Turkish armoured vehicles in the port of Tripoli. Social Media

The UN had warned of the conflict turning into a bloody proxy war as foreign backers send arms shipments despite the UN weapons ban.

GNA spokesman Mohanad Younes told reporters in May that Turkey and other countries would be delivering military and humanitarian assistance.

At least 400 people have been killed in the offensive, which has ground to a halt on the outskirts of Tripoli.

The UN and European countries have called for a ceasefire but officials say neither side is prepared for a truce.

Filed Marshal Haftar met Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday and is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron next week.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said last Wednesday that both sides in Libya needed to return to the agreed road map for peace talks that came out of lengthy negotiations over the last year. He said there was no military solution to the situation in Libya.

Abdullah Thinni, the rival prime minister in the east who is affiliated with Field Marshal Haftar, said in an interview with the Al Hurra broadcaster on Friday that the Libyan National Army would be willing to accept an unconditional ceasefire without withdrawing its forces from the outskirts of Tripoli, something Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj has rejected.

The LNA, which took control of the east and the south before attacking Tripoli, had predicted a quick victory in the capital when it first launched its campaign in early April.

But militias – including hardline groups proscribed as terrorist organisations by the UN – have mounted a strong defence of the capital and managed to hold back LNA forces.

Meanwhile, two guards and a soldier were killed in an ISIS attack on the Zella oilfield that also saw the extremist group take at least four hostages.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack in a statement run by its propaganda Amaq news outlet.

The death toll was confirmed by the National Oil Company, which condemned the attack in a statement on Saturday evening.

The attackers struck at an entrance gate to the field, which lies near the town of Zella, about 760 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, before fleeing, according to local residents.

The Zella field belongs to Zueitina Oil Company, which pumped 19,000 barrels per day on average in the last quarter of 2018 across all its fields.

An engineer told Reuters workers at the field were safe and facilities had not been damaged.

Libya's NOC chief said on Saturday that continued instability in the country could cause it to lose 95 per cent of oil production.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia before a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday of top Opec and non-Opec producers, Mustafa Sanalla also confirmed the Zella attack.

ISIS has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The militant group took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by US air strikes.