Libyan eastern army vows liberation of Tripoli from militias

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-16 04:26:26|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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TRIPOLI, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Libya's eastern-based army commander General Khalifa Haftar has officially announced plans to liberate the capital Tripoli from control of militias.

Haftar, while addressing a large crowd of army officers in the eastern city of Benghazi, said that "only a few areas of no more than 30,000 square km are out of the control of the army."

"The area of Libya is 1.76 million square km. The army now controls 1.73 million square km. There is little left for the army to control all of Libya," Haftar said.

Haftar revealed that the army had taken control of parts of the western region stretching from Zwara on the border with Tunisia to the city of Zawya, some 30 km west of Tripoli.

"For a while, we have been in contact with officers and soldiers in the western region. They have joined the army and recently liberated their areas From Zwara to the Zawya," Haftar said.

Libya's western region has recently witnessed an uprising of armed battalions backed by armed civilians, against militias, which resulted in the expelling of the militias from the cities of Sabratha, Sorman and Ajailat.

Haftar, who controls south and east of the country, revealed that the army's next target is "the city of Zawya near Tripoli" and that the city would be seized "in a few days."

"The goal announced by Haftar was previously known to many observers of the Libyan affair, however, it has been kept secret for many years until the opportunity was available," Marwan Aqil, a Libyan political analyst, told Xinhua.

"The liberation of Tripoli from the militias is a popular demand in Libya. It should have been achieved years ago. The authority of the state must be imposed by a regular army," Aqil said.

"Haftar's movement in the capital will be welcomed by the residents, who had already staged demonstrations over a month ago to demand Haftar's intervention to save them from the rule of the militias, who become more dominant after seeing the helpless government of national accord," Aqil added.

Faraj Daghman, a former officer of the Libyan army, expressed surprise at the announcement of Haftar to "move to Tripoli and the west of the country at this particular time."

"Everybody knows that there is a new UN road map being implemented to solve the Libyan crisis. Haftar has blessed it, though implicitly, when he met with UN envoy Ghassan Salama, at his office two weeks ago," Daghman told Xinhua.

Gassan Salame, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, has proposed an action plan in September for Libya that includes amendment of the current UN-sponsored political agreement, holding a UN-sponsored national conference for all Libya's political factions, adopting a constitution and election of a president and a parliament.

Haftar's announcement came as the first stage of the new UN-led dialogue between the Libyan factions continues in Tunis since Sept. 26.

"The launching of a military campaign to enter western Libya in this time will be considered by the international community as an escalation of the situation, blocking the road to political solution, and replacing it with a military solution the west has long rejected," Daghman added.

Haftar's army, allied with the Libyan eastern-based parliament, controls eastern and southern Libya, as well as part of the west. The rest of the country is dominated by the UN-backed government of national accord.

Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition since the fall of former regime in 2011. The country is plagued with political division and unrest.