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Haftar's forces clash with Chad rebels in southern Libya

Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar patrol in the southern Libyan city of Sebha, on February 9, 2019. [AFP via Getty Images]
Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar patrol in the southern Libyan city of Sebha, on February 9, 2019. [AFP via Getty Images]

Forces loyal to Libya's renegade General Khalifa Haftar said yesterday that they are now facing armed confrontations with their former allies, Chadian rebels, who took refuge in southern Libya while fighting the government in Chad's capital, N'Djamena.

Haftar's forces launched an operation against the Chadian fighters in the two Libyan towns of Tmassa and Tarbo. The fighting may further destabilise the wider Sahel region, months after the mysterious killing of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled Chad for more than 30 years and became an important ally of the West in the battle against Islamic extremism in Africa. The Chadian government accuses the rebels of assassinating him.

Haftar's forces, which control eastern and most of southern Libya, said they launched airstrikes on rebel positions and sent reinforcements to the border area.

The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) has between 1,000 and 1,500 fighters in its ranks. It was not clear why the fighting broke out, but the rebels claimed that Haftar's forces, in cooperation with France, aimed to kill or arrest their leader, Muhammad Mahdi Ali, who is currently in Libya. They did not provide evidence for the allegations.

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Haftar's forces and Chadian rebels were allies in his failed attempt to seize the capital, Tripoli, from the UN-backed government there.

That campaign lasted 14 months and ended with a ceasefire in 2020, which led to the establishment of an interim government that is leading the country until national elections are held in December.

A report by United Nations experts earlier this year stated that Haftar's forces used Chadian rebels to protect oil facilities during their 2019 attack on Tripoli.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO backed civil war toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi and led to his death. This led to the formation of two rival governments, one internationally backed in Tripoli and another headed by Haftar in the east.

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