Alwaght- Turkish President Erdogan confirmed Saturday that “several” Turkish servicemen had been killed fighting Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
On Sunday, regional media said as many as 16 Turkish troops and over 100 mercenaries transported to Libya from Syria had died fighting for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, Sputnik reported.
Turkey is transferring weapons and military equipment to Libya through Misrata Port, Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari has alleged.
"Reconnaissance and intelligence units confirm the arrival of weapons and military equipment from Turkey to the Misrata seaport to support terrorist organizations and armed groups in the western region,” al-Mismari said in a statement published on his Facebook page. “This support is made publicly before the international community. It is a breach of the declared truce in the region,” he added.
According to the spokesman, the LNA has not yet responded to the deliveries, but was monitoring the situation, with updates said to be provided on an hourly basis.
Misrata, situated about 200 km east of Tripoli along the Mediterranean coast, is home to the powerful Government of National Accord (GNA)-allied Misrata Brigades, an Islamic fundamentalist militia force which emerged in 2012 following the overthrow and murder of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Misratan forces have been fighting the LNA for much of the post-Gaddafi period, including during the ongoing LNA offensive to take the GNA capital of Tripoli which began last April.
The LNA accused Turkey of smuggling battle-hardened Syrian militants to Libya through Misrata in December, claiming that the mercenaries included ISIS and Al-Nusra Front militants.
The long-running conflict in Libya escalated last month after Turkish troops and mercenaries began arriving in the country to shore up the GNA at Tripoli’s behest. On Saturday, President Erdogan confirmed that “several” Turkish troops had been killed in recent fighting, but added that “losses in Haftar’s ranks reached almost a hundred mercenaries."
Erdogan did not specify the number of Turkish troops killed, but Sky News Arabia reported Sunday that the losses included up to 16 soldiers and over 100 Syrian mercenaries.
Fighting between the GNA and the LNA continues despite a ceasefire pledge approved by both sides in Berlin in January. On Thursday, Commander Haftar accused the GNA and Turkey of violating the ceasefire, warning that Libyans had the right to confront Turkish aggression. Last week, the foreign minister of the LNA-supporting Tobruk-based parliament accused Turkey of attempting to “conquer” Libya.
On Saturday, a senior GNA official told Bloomberg that Tripoli “wouldn’t mind” if the US asked to set up a base in the country to keep the Russians out. The US evacuated its remaining forces from Misrata last year, immediately after Haftar’s troops began the Tripoli operation.