Libya crisis escalates, death toll rises

At least 32 people have been killed and around 50 wounded in fighting with strongman Khalifa Haftar's troops near Tripoli, the UN-backed government announced on Monday. Fierce clashes raged on Sunday near Tripoli between pro-Haftar fighters and troops loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The clashes came despite calls by the United Nations and the United States for an urgent ceasefire.

The two rival sides also exchanged air strikes after Haftar, who backs an administration in eastern Libya opposed to the GNA, launched an offensive last Thursday to seize the capital. At the same time the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the capital to help organise a planned national reconciliation conference between rival Libyan factions.

On Sunday, the US announced it had temporarily withdrawn some of its forces in the country due to “security conditions on the ground”. A small contingent of American troops has been based in Libya in recent years, helping local forces combat Islamic State (IS) group and al Qaeda militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities. India also evacuated a small contingent of peacekeepers.

G7 foreign ministers meeting in the French coastal city of Dinard on Saturday called on Haftar to halt his offensive on Tripoli. But they failed to detail enforcement mechanisms if the Libyan strongman refused to commit to a political solution.

 

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