Isis advances in Libya, Sirte airport seized

Tripoli 'premier' warns EU, 'We will defend our waters'

29 May, 19:00

    (by Laurence Figà-Talamanca) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 29 - Isis and its 'brand' are continuing to advance in Libya. Taking advantage of the instability, of the political rift and gang wars, jihadists from the Islamic State are boosting their position in the country and are not confined within Cyrenaica anymore.

    The latest move was seizing the civilian airport of Sirte, set in the Mediterranean gulf by the same name, half way between Tripoli and Benghazi. The news came from the spokesman of the 166 Brigade in Misrata, the same that has been trying for months to stem the Islamic State's advance towards the west and reconquer Sirte. The Brigade, explained the spokesman, was forced to withdraw from the base of al-Qardabiya after aid failed to arrive from Tripoli.

    For its part, Isis has confirmed the report, claiming it has also gained control of some buildings that are part of the 'Great artificial river project', the largest waterworks worldwide promoted by Muammar Gaddafi.

    In the east, an attempt by jihadists from Derna - the Islamic State's stronghold in Libya - to move westward was instead rejected, also thanks to the local population, with an attack on the small center of Lamluda towards al Baida, one of the two seats - together with Tobruk - of the legitimate government recognized by the international community.

    Meanwhile the ''parallel'' government of Tripoli, imposed by pro-Islamist militia from the Fajr Libya coalition (mainly including those of Misrata) has 'warned' Europe - a warning already expressed with the same tone by rivals in Tobruk over the past few weeks.

    ''If the EU will enter Libyan waters'' to stop migrant boats ''without our permission, we will defend ourselves'', said in an interview with the Independent 'premier' Khalifa al-Ghweil, also from Misrata, who has replaced predecessor Omar al-Hassi who lost the backing of the General National Congress, Tripoli's 'parliament' recreated by the militias.

    ''In Libya, the self-proclaimed Islamic State is expanding'', warned Italian foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in an interview with Foreign Affairs. ''We are ready to take a leading role to assist, within a UN legal framework, a Libyan government of national unity with the objective of stabilizing the country'', said the foreign minister.

    On this front, UN envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon, continues to work for political dialogue between different factions in spite of systematic standstills, the rejection of draft accords and difficulties on the ground. The Spanish diplomat gathered Friday in Tunis a great number of representatives of Libyan municipalities and local assemblies to try to find an increasingly complex way out of the crisis. (ANSAmed)
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