Commander threatens to target Turkish forces in Libya

CAIRO (AP) — A Libyan commander who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the United Nations (UN)-recognised rival government threatened on Thursday to use force against Turkish troops if Ankara doesn’t stop interfering in the war-stricken North African country.

Khalifa Hifter’s comments came in response to the Turkish parliament’s decision to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops to Libya. Turkish military assistance to the Tripoli-based government — including advisors, equipment and intelligence — helped stop Hifter’s year-long offensive on the capital. Turkey has also been accused of sending thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Libya.

“There will be no security or peace as long as the boots of the Turkish military are desecrating our immaculate soil,” Hifter said in comments from his eastern stronghold, Benghazi. “We will carry weapons to bring about peace with our own hands and our free will.”

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and one in the west. The western government is known as the Government of National Accord (GNA) and is officially recognised by the UN.

Hifter has been allied with the eastern government, while Turkey has supported the GNA.

The Turkish lawmakers’ decision came on Tuesday, despite a UN-brokered ceasefire in Libya declared in October.

“The colonising enemy has one of two choices: either to leave peacefully or to be driven out by force,” Hifter said, referring to Turkey.