Libya: Haftar’s forces mobilize mercenaries for the battle of Sirte | News

Eastern forces allied with renegade Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar have sent thousands of foreign mercenaries to fight in an impending battle for the strategic city of Sirte.

Local sources in the city of Kufra, in southeastern Libya, told Al Jazeera that numerous convoys of foreign fighters on Sunday He passed through the city of Ajdabiya, which is located between Benghazi and Sirte.

Haftar’s allied forces released a video showing the military reinforcements being deployed from Benghazi, where the eastern forces are located, to Sirte, 570 km (354 miles) to the west.

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The reinforcements included Sudanese and Chadian fighters, as well as more than 3,000 Russian mercenaries, the sources said.

The UN recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, announced that it was determined to end “occupation” of the cities of Sirte and Youfra by foreign fighters.

Sirte is the birthplace of the former leader Muammar Gaddafi and the last significant settlement before the traditional border between west and east Libya.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) forces captured Sirte without a fight in January after one of Libya’s countless local militias switched sides.

Beyond Sirte lies the award for Libya’s main oil export ports, Haftar’s most important strategic asset.

‘Criminal gangs’

Al-Sarraj also reiterated calls for a team from the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Haftar’s allied forces, saying that impunity had encouraged its fighters to commit “more barbaric crimes”.

A GNA army spokesman said in a statement Saturday that “Sirte was the most dangerous place in Libya after becoming a focal point for mercenaries from the Russian Wagner company,” which he described as “criminal gangs.”

He added that the “liberation” of Sirte and Youfra from Haftar’s soldiers had become “more urgent than ever.”

On Saturday, Libya’s permanent representative to the United Nations asked the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions about those who support armed groups in Libya.

Sirte, Libya

The battle for the key city of Sirte causes both LNA and GNA to increase their troop levels [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]

Common pits

Meanwhile, nine other unidentified bodies were discovered in mass graves in the city of Tarhuna, an official said Sunday.

Kamal al-Siwi, chairman of Libya’s General Authority for the Investigation and Identification of Missing Persons, announced that the total number of discovered bodies buried in the area had increased to 19 since search efforts began on June 5.

Tarhuna, 90 km (56 miles) south of the capital Tripoli, was the last stronghold in western Libya controlled by militias loyal to Haftar before being recaptured in early June by GNA forces.

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Earlier this month, the UN expressed “horror” after aAt least eight mass graves were discovered in Tarhuna.

In March, the UN said He received reports of hundreds of enforced disappearances, torture, killings, and displacement of entire families in Tarhuna by Haftar fighters.

Libyan authorities announced earlier this month that international efforts were underway to establish an investigative committee to investigate violations by allied Haftar groups, including the planting of landmines and the excavation of mass graves near the capital Tripoli. and Tarhuna.

Great military gains

Libya, a major world oil producer, has been in turmoil since 2011, when Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising.

It is now divided between two rival administrations: the GNA in Tripoli and the eastern-based House of Representatives allied with Haftar.

The GNA is backed by Turkey, while Haftar’s LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.

In recent weeks, the GNA, with the support of Turkey, has made significant military progress, forcing Haftar’s forces to withdraw after regaining control over Tripoli and Tarhuna, in addition to other strategic locations, including al-Watiya air base.

Since then, the GNA launched a military operation to take the central coastal city of Sirte and Jufra further south.

The internationally recognized government in Tripoli has been attacked by Haftar forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 people killed in the violence.

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