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Egypt, UAE establish Libya naval commando squad to fight Turkey

March 9, 2020 at 4:04 pm

A fighter loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) keeps position near the Salah al-Din military compound, south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on 7 May 2019 [Mahmud TURKIA/AFP/Getty]

A special naval commandos unit made of of dozens of Libyan fighters has been setup with the held of the UAE to carry out operations against Turkey’s naval interests in the Mediterranean, sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. 

Egyptian and Libyan sources revealed the new squad’s missions include as blocking the naval route that Turkey uses to send military aid to the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

Libyan forces had been sent to Egypt to receive training at the hands of its navy, the sources added. This special marine operations squad, which consists of around 50 fighters, will reportedly be joined by a second batch of commandos who are currently receiving their training in an Egyptian naval base.

The sources also revealed that the UAE has been aiding Egypt in this training campaign by proving boats to militias in eastern Libya, operating under the rival government led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The naval operations conducted by the fighters against Turkish interests will be supervised by Egyptian military experts before the tasks are completely handed over to Haftar’s naval officers, it was reported.

READ: Egypt seeks to establish Arab security front against Turkey

Since the overthrow and killing of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been subject to two rival governments or factions within the country: the GNA which controls most of the west including the key city of Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the east and is led by the formerly-exiled Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar. Throughout the ongoing Libyan civil war, Turkey – along with the UN – has backed and militarily assisted the GNA against Haftar’s forces.

Turkey’s support for the government has led it to make wider steps in recent months to increase ties and military support for the GNA by signing pacts on military cooperation and maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean in the end of November. As part of these relations, Turkey offered direct military support in December last year in order to push back Haftar’s advance, which the GNA accepted and called for. As a result, Turkey has sent approximately 2,000 fighters from Syria to repel Haftar, along with a small contingent of Turkish officers and advisors to train and advise GNA forces.

Meanwhile, the UAE and Russia have been deploying mercenaries to aid Haftar’s forces against the GNA and Turkey, in particular those belonging to the notorious Wagner Company. The creation and training of this naval commando squad, however, opens up a new obstacle to Turkey’s interests in the Mediterranean and Libya through the planned naval operations.

READ: UN envoy for Libya resigns due to ‘stress’