Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the United Nations-recognized government in Tripoli, said in an interview published yesterday he will continue fighting until militias in the city laid down their arms.
Haftar had justified the offensive last month by saying he was fighting against “private militias and extremist groups” who he said were gaining influence in the capital under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. “Of course a political solution is the objective,” Haftar told the Journal de Dimanche newspaper in France.
“But to return to politics, we need to finish with the militias. The problem in Tripoli is a security one.” He offered an amnesty to fighters in Tripoli who laid down their arms, saying they would be allowed to “return home safe and sound.”
He also took aim at U.N. mediator Ghassan Salame, who has warned the country is “committing suicide” due to a conflict that 6-10 foreign states are involved in. “Salame is making irresponsible statements,” Haftar said. “He wasn’t like that before, he has changed. From an impartial and honest mediator, he has become a biased one.”
Salame has warned that Haftar’s offensive is “just the start of a long and bloody war.” More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the outskirts of Tripoli.