Libya crisis: Fighting flares on outskirts of Tripoli

Tripoli-allied forces took 145 troops allied to the eastern forces and confiscated dozens of vehicles in the town of Zawiya

Tripoli-allied forces took 145 troops allied to the eastern forces and confiscated dozens of vehicles in the town of Zawiya

General Hifter, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, announced on Thursday he was deploying his forces toward Tripoli, sparking fears that the tensions could be escalating out of control as militias from the western cities of Zawiya and Misarata said they had mobilised to confront General Hifter.

G7 foreign ministers warned eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar to halt his thrust on Tripoli, menacing the internationally recognized government based there, or face possible worldwide action.

The 2011 NATO-supported uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi led to chaos in Libya.

But who is Hifter? The LNA called on Friday for Tripoli's militias to disarm. But Chadian forces took him captive, and in 1987 he defected, pledging his loyalty to the National Salvation Front for Libya, which was USA -backed.

With the worldwide community split over Libya, diplomatic solutions appear limited.

"We, the Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the EU High Representative, gathered in Saint-Malo on 5 April express our deepest concern about military operations near Tripoli, Libya".

Italy's foreign minister said Haftar must listen to warnings from the worldwide community to halt his advance on Tripoli.

Asked if sanctions could be imposed against Haftar were he to fail to comply with the demands of the worldwide community, he replied: "We have stated quite clearly what our position is and we very much hope that he [Haftar] will take it into consideration".

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Haftar then ordered his forces to march on the capital, saying in an audio recording posted online: "We are coming Tripoli, we are coming". The UN Security council has issued a similar call.

The council "called on LNA forces to halt all military movements" and "on all forces to de-escalate military activity", said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the council presidency. More than 120 LNA fighters were also captured.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres departed after meeting Haftar to try to avert full-blown civil war.

Haftar's spokesman, Ahmed al-Mesmari, said the LNA was targeted by four air raids on Saturday, including one in the al-Aziziya region, which sits about 50km south of Tripoli.

"I still hope, if possible, to avoid armed confrontation around Tripoli", he said.

Fighters from the coastal city of Misrata, which is fiercely opposed to Haftar, had also mobilised to protect the capital.

"We are determined" to hold the talks "as scheduled" on April 14 unless prevented by serious obstacles, United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame said Saturday at a press conference in the capital. Each is backed by an array of militias.

"Capturing Tripoli... remains a possibility" for Haftar, with the support he receives from Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, he said.

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