Fears grow Isil loyalists will exploit Libya chaos

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Fears grow Isil loyalists will exploit Libya chaos


Ignored appeals for peace: LNA General Khalifa Haftar. Photo: Reuters
Ignored appeals for peace: LNA General Khalifa Haftar. Photo: Reuters

Casualties in the battle for Tripoli continued to mount after a group loyal to Isil killed three people in Libya’s remote central region.

The deaths raised fears Islamic militants may exploit the renewed chaos engulfing the country.

Forty-seven people had been reported killed and 181 wounded by the UN’s health organisation as eastern forces seek to seize the coastal capital from the internationally recognised government.

That was a higher toll than numbers given by either side, and appeared to be mainly fighters, although it also included some civilians including two doctors, World Health Organisation spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in Geneva.

The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar – a former general in ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi’s army – seized the largely desert south this year before heading to Tripoli, where they are entrenched on the southern side.

The government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj (59) is seeking to block them with the help of armed groups who have rushed from Misrata in pick-up trucks fitted with machine guns.

The UN, US, EU and G7 bloc have all appealed for a ceasefire and return to a UN peace plan, but Haftar has so far ignored them.

Far south of Tripoli, a group loyal to the jihadist Isil attacked the town of Fuqaha, killing three people and kidnapping another before leaving, residents said.

Fuqaha is controlled by fighters loyal to Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of Islamic extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in Gaddafi’s mould.

Isil has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the Western-backed overthrow of Gaddafi eight years ago.

It took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by US air strikes.

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Libya’s potential slide into civil war threatens to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration across the Mediterranean to Europe and scupper UN plans for an election to end rivalries between parallel administrations in east and west.

Libya has become the main conduit for African migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe, many of whom suffer torture, rape and extortion.

Those who manage to board a boat to Italy risk drowning or being sent back into detention in inhumane conditions.

The UN migration agency estimates twice as many die in the Sahara desert as in the Mediterranean.

The UN refugee agency said it was extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation, and thousands of refugees and migrants were trapped in detention centres in the conflict areas.

Irish Independent

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