Russia, Egypt accused of providing weapons to Libya’s warlord Haftar
SIRTE (Agencies): The Libyan army says military supplies dispatched from Egypt arrived in Tobruk in northeastern Libya, in violation of a UN arms embargo.
The new development came shortly after warlord Khalifa Haftar said his militia was preparing for a “major battle” near the cities of Sirte and Al Jufra.
Images published by the Government of National Accord-led Operation Volcano of Rage on Wednesday showed people in military uniform standing beside vehicles carrying weapons and military equipment.
The Libyan army, however, did not give further details.
Since April 2019, Haftar’s illegitimate forces have launched attacks on the Libyan capital of Tripoli and other parts of northwestern Libya, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths.
Haftar is backed by Egypt, Russia, the UAE and France while GNA enjoys the support of Turkey and Qatar.
In a statement late on Monday, the illegal governing body in the eastern port of Tobruk said Egyptian backing was needed to counter Turkey’s support for the GNA against Haftar.
In June, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi suggested that Cairo could launch “external military missions” into Libya “if required.”
Sisi said the city of Sirte and Al Jufra airbase are a “red line,” calling on his army to “be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders, or if necessary outside our borders.”
On April 8, the Libyan army released photos of an Egyptian vessel arriving at the Tobruk harbour carrying 40 containers of ammunition for Haftar.
Also, last year on June 6, the Libyan army released photos of military supplies and ammunition it said arrived by land from Egypt to support Haftar’s militia.
The US military accused a Russian state-backed mercenary group of laying landmines and other explosive devices in and around Tripoli, violating the arms embargo.
The US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, said on Wednesday verified photographic evidence shows “indiscriminately placed booby traps and minefields” around the outskirts of Tripoli and all the way east toward the strategic coastal city of Sirte since mid-June.
There was no immediate comment from Russia or the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private security company that has been implicated in the conflict in the North African country.
Moscow has repeatedly denied playing any role on Libya’s battlefields.
AFRICOM said it assessed that Wagner introduced the weapons into Libya. It posted photos of improvised explosive devices and a concealed anti-personnel mine, allegedly found in a residential area in Tripoli.
“Imagery and intelligence assessments show how Russia continues to interfere in Libyan affairs. Wagner Group’s reckless use of landmines and booby traps are harming innocent civilians,” said Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence.
The US has repeatedly accused Russia of introducing military weaponry, including at least 14 MIG-29 fighter jets with their Russian markings covered up, into the Libyan conflict, contravening the UN arms embargo.
The UN last week urged stakeholders in the long-running civil war to respect a much-violated UN arms embargo and push them to reach a full cease-fire.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled Gaddafi, who was later killed.
The country has since split between rival sides.
Ankara’s intervention led to a sudden shift in front lines this month as Libya’s army pushed back Haftar’s illegal militias and its allies from most of northwest Libya towards the central coastal city of Sirte.
The Libyan army recently inflicted heavy blows on Haftar and liberated Tripoli and Tarhuna, in addition to other strategic locations, including Al Watiya airbase, from his militias.