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Haftar calls on LNA forces to advance on Libya's Tripoli in 'final battle'

Senior official in Libya's UN-recognised government says it is ready for any 'insane attempt' on capital by LNA leader
Destruction in Tajoura, south of Libyan capital Tripoli on 15 June, after reported air strike by forces loyal to LNA leader Khalifa Haftar (AFP/File photo)

Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar called on his forces to advance on Tripoli in a "final battle" for the capital, eight months after the assault began. 

Haftar, a former CIA asset who heads the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive in April to try to take control of Tripoli. While Haftar had enjoyed some earlier success advancing through Libya's south and capturing most of the country's oil installations, his Tripoli offensive soon stalemated.

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In a televised speech broadcast on Thursday, he said his forces are now prepared to push forward. "Today we announce the decisive battle and the advancement towards the heart of the capital to set it free ... advance now, our heroes," Haftar said.

Fathi Bashagha, minister of interior of Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), said on Thursday that the GNA government was prepared for any operation launched by LNA forces, Reuters reported. 

"Our forces are ready to fight any new insane attempt" by Haftar to attack the city, Bashagha was quoted as saying by Libya’s al-Ahrar channel. 

In the past, Haftar's forces have issued announcements about advances or decisive military actions that have been followed by little concrete change on the battlefield.

The World Health Organization has said at least 1,000 people have been killed, hundreds wounded and more than 120,000 displaced in his offensive.

Haftar has defended the operation, suggesting that the capital has been taken hostage by a host of GNA-aligned militias only interested in enriching themselves.

GNA supporters have rejected the claim, accusing Haftar of being an authoritarian who is not interested in sharing power. 

Meanwhile, rights groups have accused Haftar's forces of failing to distinguish between civilian and military sites during the assault, with LNA air raids hitting schools and hospitals.

Last month, a UN report concluded that the UAE, Sudan and Jordan had all provided Haftar's forces with military support - violating a UN's Libyan arms embargo that was issued in 2011. 

The LNA denies that it has foreign backing.

The UN report also said that Turkey was in breach of the resolution for supplying GNA-aligned forces with "military material".