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LNA Launches Operation to Secure South as Sarraj Reveals Root of Dispute with Haftar

LNA Launches Operation to Secure South as Sarraj Reveals Root of Dispute with Haftar

Wednesday, 16 January, 2019 - 07:00
LNA commander Khalifa Haftar. (Reuters)
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud
The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, launched on Tuesday an operation to secure southern Libya from terrorist and criminal groups.

“We announce the start of an operation to liberate the south,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told reporters in Benghazi.

The operation aims to protect the people from terrorism, whether from al-Qaeda or ISIS, and criminal gangs active in the area and that work for foreign countries in order to alter Libya’s demographics, said an LNA statement.

It also aims to secure oil and gas fields, impose the rule of law and stop illegal migration.

The LNA urged residents to steer clear of terrorist and criminal elements in Sabha city and its surrounding areas in order to allow the military forces the freedom to carry out their duties quickly and efficiently.

The LNA had in March carried out a similar operation against Chadian armed groups that had infiltrated Libyan territories.

The higher council of Toubou clan elders had given its blessing to the LNA operation on Monday.

The Government of National Accord, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, did not comment on the army’s operation.

Instead Sarraj’s office said in a statement that he had discussed with lawmakers from the al-Masar bloc the situation in the South and government measures to activate public institutions there.

Moreover, he revealed that the main dispute between him and Haftar lies in the LNA chief’s demand that he serve as the commander of Libya’s army.

He explained that Haftar had expressed reservations over last year’s Palermo conference, insisting that the high commander of the military should not be directly elected by the people.

The conference was held in Italy in November with the aim of bridging differences between the rival Libyan parties. Haftar traveled to Palermo, but did not take part in its main meeting.

Sarraj told the media that Haftar was insistent of serving as high commander of the military and its general leader.

This is unacceptable, he said, explaining that the army is subject to the civil authority.

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