Airstrikes and ultimatum to jihadists to leave Tripoli

UN and Italy want bombs halted; ISIS flags, Malta embassy closes

25 November, 20:34

    Airstrikes on the Mitiga military airport in Tripoli Airstrikes on the Mitiga military airport in Tripoli

    (by Laurence Figà-Talamanca) (ANSAmed) - CAIRO - A settling of scores has commenced in Libya. The air force and ground forces under former general Khalifa Haftar, who are fighting against Islamist and ISIS-aligned groups, have conducted two airstrikes on the Mitiga military airport - the only one still in use in Tripoli - on the orders of the transitional government, which meets in Tobruk due to security reasons but enjoys recognition from the international community. Government forces warned the armed Islamist faction Libya Dawn on Tuesday that they had 24 hours to leave the capital. Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni has said that the attack on the airport was warranted, as it was a ''preventative'' one to defend civilians, claiming that the militants were planning on using the airport to launch airstrikes on state institutions.

    Thinni's rival, the prime minister of the 'parallel' government imposed by Libya Dawn and the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli, Omar Al-Hassi, has meanwhile warned that ''this will lead to war''. UN special envoy Bernardino Leon called on Thinni to halt the bombing of the airport to help restore calm and initiate dialogue with Tripoli. Italy backed the UN envoy, also calling for negotiations between the parties in conflict. The Libya prime minister said that the airstrikes would stop only when the militias had left the capital, enabling the entrance of the police and government troops, and when the Islamist front in the west had recognized the Tobruk government as the only legitimate one. The divide between the east and the west has grown wider in recent weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the Tobruk parliament, elected in June, was ''illegitimate''. This paved the way for Tripoli militias to ''revive'' the former General National Congress (GNC), which once again on Tuesday claimed that it was the only ''legal and official'' institution in Libya. The GNC also warned the international community against dealing with the ''illegal front'': a clear signal to the UN envoy, who may risk being expelled from Tripoli. Hassi's parallel government continues - with support from Libya Dawn - to pressure the international community to the point that Malta has decided to withdraw all its diplomatic staff from its embassy in Libya, one of the very few (alongside the Italian one) that is still open. Maltese officials say that they feared for their safety when they saw Islamic State (ISIS) black flags in Tripoli. There is a risk that Libya may become ISIS's Mediterranean outpost.

    In Derna, on the country's eastern shore and only a few dozen nautical miles from Europe, the jihadists of the Islamic Youth Shura Council and Ansar Al-Sharia have recently pledged allegiance to the Iraqi 'caliph' Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

    (ANSAmed).

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