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Haftar's mercenaries attack government forces with nerve gas

Libyan Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha accused the mercenaries of the Russian company Wagner, which is fighting against the militias of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, of using the internationally-banned nerve gas against government forces south of the capital of Tripoli.

This came in a press conference held by Bashagha, the details of which were published by the media center of the Libyan government's Operation Volcano of Anger.

"In the Salah Al-Din axis, our fighters were attacked by nerve gas from Haftar's forces, so they were paralysed and then sniped. This can only be carried out by the Wagner Group," revealed Bashagha.

READ: UN: Libya turning into 'experimental field' for arms as war heats up

He added: "It is time for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Russia to stop supporting Haftar and hinder him from terrorising and targeting civilians. It is also time for these countries to stop facilitating the spread of the coronavirus pandemic inside and outside Libya."

"The continuous reports about your violations, and the records of your military aircraft flights that did not stop violating our sovereignty over the airspace of our country, are a stigma that history records against your regimes and evidence with which we will pursue you in international events and courts," indicated Bashagha.

He continued: "Everyone has seen the circulated photos and videos of Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries fighting with Haftar and tampering with the livelihoods and property of the abandoned Libyans. Shame and disgrace on those who brought in these mercenaries. This would only make us fiercer in this war. We will send the corpses of these mercenaries to their countries, and we will prosecute those who participated in bringing them in international courts."

Bashagha pointed out that: "Haftar has intensified his brutal attacks against civilians, by indiscriminate shelling of densely populated residential areas in Tripoli and by bombing hospitals, health facilities and ambulances."

He further noted that the aforementioned comes at a time when the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA): "Is making strenuous efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic," warning that Haftar's continued targeting of civilian sites and medical facilities would severely undermine those efforts.

Bashagha stressed that the expulsion of Haftar's militia from Tarhuna, southeast of the capital, could end the country's civil war.

He continued: "Now, we are focusing mainly on how to protect Tripoli and its population from artillery bombardment."

Yesterday, the GNA forces launched an offensive on sites belonging to the militias of Haftar, south of Tripoli.

Mustafa Al-Mujei, spokesman for the GNA-led Operation Volcano of Anger, confirmed that their forces initiated an attack on the axis of Al-Khalatat and managed to destroy three armoured vehicles belonging to Haftar's forces.

In this context, the High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell renewed his call for a ceasefire in Libya.

After holding a meeting via video conference with the European Union foreign ministers, Borrell stated: "The international community's calls and the coronavirus could not prevent the warring parties from fighting, as the battles are getting more intense," stressing the need to reach a ceasefire in Libya.

The Turkish SITA Centre for Political, Economic and Social Studies highlighted the change of the balance of power in Libya in favour of the GNA forces.

The centre organised a symposium on the latest developments of the Libyan scene and the Turkish support for the GNA, in which the researchers Emrah Kekilli and Nebahat Taneri Wardi participated to assess the current situation in the country and possible scenarios in the future.

Taneri Wardi stressed on the importance of the security and military memorandum of understanding that Turkey and the GNA signed in Istanbul last year, in light of the changing balance of power in Libya.

She pointed out that for the first time since 2014, Libya can witness a significant change in favour of the legitimate government in Tripoli, especially with the military support offered by Turkey.

Kekilli indicated that the Turkish-Libyan agreement upgraded the GNA's military capabilities and helped the government forces make a significant advancement on the ground in the recent period at the expense of Haftar's militias.

Kekilli considered that the UAE assisted Russia's intervention in the Libyan crisis in 2019 by covering the expenses of hiring mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group.

He stressed that the UAE also paid for the French weapons seized by the GNA forces in the course of its military operations against Haftar's militia.

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