Turkey has said it will “retaliate in the most effective and strong way” to any threats from the Libyan warlord’s Khalifa Haftar’s army.
The warning came after Gen Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said it would strike Turkish vessels in Libyan waters and view Turkish businesses as targets. The LNA controls most of the east and south of Libya and started an offensive against the internationally recognised government in April.
Turkey supports the Libyan government. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his country supplies weapons and drones to Tripoli’s Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minster Fayez al-Sarraj. He said Turkish backing helped “rebalance” the fight against Gen Haftar, who has backing from UAE and Egypt.
Turkish Defence Minister Huluski Akar warned that LNA forces would pay a “very heavy price” for any attacks on Turkish interests. On Thursday, the GNA reclaimed the strategic town of Gharyan, a main supply base for Gen Haftar’s forces in their offensive on Tripoli.
“The speed (of the attack), the surprise element and the revolt (by the area’s residents) sowed fear” in the ranks of Haftar’s fighters, General Ahmad Bouchahma, a senior GNA officer, said during a tour of the area.
Among the weaponry the GNA says it seized were US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles packed in wooden crates marked “armed forces of the United Arab Emirates”, a major buyer of American weapons and one of Haftar’s main international backers. Libya has been torn by violence and division since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.