TRIPOLI – Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced a “decisive battle” for the capital Tripoli on Thursday, eight months after he launched an offensive to wrest it from the unity government.
“Zero hour has come for the broad and total assault expected by every free and honest Libyan,” he said in a speech aired by the pro-Haftar Al-Hadath channel.
Dressed in military uniform, he announced “the decisive battle and the advance on the heart of Tripoli.
“Now move forward, each to his own goal,” he ordered his troops.
Since the fall and killing of longtime dictator Moammer Gadhafi in 2011 in a NATO-backed uprising, Libya has been torn apart by violence between multiple armed groups, many of them backed by foreign powers.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, which controls much of the country’s east, launched an assault on April 4 to seize Tripoli from the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, says the GNA is backed by “terrorist” groups.
The GNA said Thursday that the situation was “under control” and that its troops were holding their positions in the capital’s south.
“We are ready to push back any more mad attempt by the Haftar putsch leader,” said GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha on Libya al-Ahrar television.
Haftar had foreseen a quick victory, but despite vowing in July that success was “imminent,” his forces have remained bogged down on the outskirts of the capital.
At least 200 civilians and more than 2,000 fighters have been killed since the start of Haftar’s assault on Tripoli, according to the United Nations. The fighting has also displaced some 146,000 people.
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