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CORRECTION: Libya army head warns of 'slaughter' by IS militants

Comments come as army chief accuses the UN of failing to arm his forces in order to justify unilateral international intervention
A row of burnt-out cars is seen in Libya's second city of Benghazi this week (AFP)

Correction: Middle East Eye published a story on 18 May which stated that Saqr al-Jaroushi, the head of the HoR's air force, had threatened to "slaughter" any soldiers who refused to join his military campaign. MEE has since learned that the report was based on a doctored video of a telephone interview between Jaroushi and a Libyan satellite television channel. The original story has been edited to reflect this, and MEE apologises unreservedly for this error.

The head of Libya’s official air force has warned Libyans against joining forces with the militants who are making gains in the country.

Speaking on Libyan satellite channel Libya First on Sunday, Saqr al-Jaroushi warned that anyone thinking of joining Islamic State (IS) in Libya would be "slaughtered" if they tried to fight.

The interview was conducted on the first anniversary of the launch of Operation Dignity, a military campaign launched in May 2014 by forces allied to the House of Representatives (HoR), Libya's internationally recognised government.

The forces, which have material backing from countries including Egypt and the UAE, are battling against various militia groups, some of which are allied to the HoR’s rival government.

After the 2011 revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan army absorbed several of the militia groups that helped topple the strongman leader, offering funding to them.

Now, however, army leaders allied to the HoR are attempting to degrade the militia groups, some of which managed to gain control of key sites in Libya such as oilfields.

Operation Dignity is run by General Khalifa Haftar, formerly a rogue general who was recently appointed chief of the HoR’s army.

Operation Dignity, now being conducted under the remit of the HoR, aims to stamp out the various militant groups that have been gaining ground in Libya since the 2011 uprising that ousted Gaddafi.

A doctored version of the video was circulated online, appearing to show Jaroushi saying that any soldiers from the HoR army who refused to join Operation Dignity would be "slaughtered".

The video was widely shared online, and mistakenly reported by a number of Arabic-language news sites as well as by Middle East Eye.

Translation: The speech by Saqr al-Jaroushi from which the words 'IS militants' were deleted by those who want to spread discord. This is the original interview

Haftar accuses UN

Haftar on Sunday accused the UN Security Council of refusing to arm his troops in order to justify launching their own intervention in Libya.

Speaking live on Libyan satellite television to mark the first anniversary of Operation Dignity’s launch, Haftar said the council had refused to arm the HoR army “to find themselves an excuse to intervene in our affairs and impose their will”.

The Security Council voted unanimously in March to keep in place a four-year-old arms embargo imposed on Libya.

However, the decision opened the door for exemptions on a case-by-case basis – according to the resolution, drafted by Jordan, the council will now “consider expeditiously” requests for arms transfers to Libya.

Haftar’s latest comments came ahead of a top-level meeting of European Union officials on Monday.

Meeting in Brussels, foreign and defence ministers of the 28-member body are widely expected to approve a motion that will allow the EU to take military action against people smugglers off the coast of Libya.

In an attempt to stem the flow of people attempting to reach Europe via the risky Mediterranean sea route, the EU is proposing to bomb boats close to the shore of Libya within the North African country’s territorial waters.

Germany begins sinking boats

Since 5 May Germany, a key player in the EU, has reportedly been sinking migrant boats in the Mediterranean after rescuing the people on board.

"Otherwise, they would present a maritime barrier to other boats on the open sea," frigate captain Alexander Gottschalk told popular German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday. 

Gottschalk added that people are checked for potential weapons before they are allowed to board German-owned vessels.

The plan to begin an EU-wide mission to destroy boats suspected of being used by people smugglers requires UN approval, and is expected to face challenges.

UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon has already said that he opposes a military solution to the crisis, which has seen 30 times the numbers of migrant deaths so far in 2015 as for the same period last year.

The idea has also faced stiff opposition in Libya, where the country's ambassador to the UN said he was “very worried” at the prospect of EU military intervention.