The military commander of the forces stationed in eastern Libya said Saturday that he will continue to fight against forces loosely allied with the United Nations-supported government in Tripoli, although his campaign has suffered setbacks in recent weeks.
Field Marshal Jalifa Hafter, commander of the suspected Libyan Arab Armed Forces, has led a campaign for more than a year to take Tripoli, the capital. The military surge has reversed in recent weeks, and its forces lost control of several towns and a key air base.
Hafter’s side controls the east of the country and much of the south, while the UN-supported government controls areas in the west, including Tripoli.
In a two-minute speech to his forces, Hafter said they will “fight and fight” against what he called “Turkish colonialism.”
Turkey helps the embattled government in Tripoli. It recently intensified its military support with armored drones, air defenses and Syrian mercenaries with links to extremist groups. That has helped change the trend against Hafter’s forces, which are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russian mercenaries.
“To our brave officers and soldiers, you fight a holy war that is open to all fronts, a comprehensive war where there is nothing but victory,” Hafter said in the speech.
Colonel Mohamed Gnounou, a spokesman for the forces allied with Tripoli, reported on Saturday that they took control of two military camps on the outskirts of Tripoli, which Hafter’s forces had claimed at the start of their campaign last year.
However, Hafter’s forces said his fighters were merely completing a two-three-kilometer (about 2-mile) retreat from the southern tip of Tripoli to allow families to visit each other safely to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday on Sunday.
The forces added that they had recovered the Yarmouk military camp, killed “a large number of militiamen” and captured a dozen more. They claimed that they had shot down two Turkish drones in southern Tripoli attacking their forces.