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Haftar forces claim responsibility for anti-Islamist airstrikes

Announcement comes as Qatar dismisses claims of interference in Libya
Islamist fighters in the Libyan Dawn coalition stand guard at the entrance of Tripoli international airport (AFP)

Forces loyal to renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a number of airstrikes carried out on Monday against a camp belonging to the Islamist-leaning Libya Dawn militia in the town of Gharyan, 120km southwest of Tripoli.

"A military aircraft attacked a weapons depot upon instructions from "Operation Dignity," Haftar spokesman Mohamed Hegazi told Anadolu Agency.

He insisted that pro-Haftar forces were capable of striking military sites across Libya.

A local official said Monday that "unidentified" planes had carried out airstrikes against a camp associated with the Libya Dawn militia in Tripoli.

"Planes believed to be from neighbouring countries carried out attacks on the [militia's] 8th Battalion," the official told Anadolu Agency.

At least 18 people were injured in the strikes.

The official believed the planes were not Libyan "because of the accuracy of the strikes."

On Sunday Heftar threatened that his troops would shoot any ships entering the Port of Benghazi if the officials in charge do not heed orders to close it down.

Haftar had earlier accused fighters from the Shura Council of Benghazi militias of smuggling in arms supplies through the port in the north-east of the country.

Last month forces belonging to the Libya Dawn alliance were targeted by warplanes near Tripoli airport before they defeated nationalist militia rivals at the site.

Washington initially said that the UAE and Egypt were behind the night raids, but later backtracked on its comments

Militias in Gharyan are members of the Libya Dawn alliance which rejects the legitimacy of the elected parliament and blames it for allegedly allowing air raids to be carried out against its fighters at the airport.

The internationally recognised Libyan government -- which in August relocated to the east of the country as militias battled for control of the capital Tripoli -- has accused Qatar as well as Sudan of supplying weapons to its Islamist opponents.

“We warned Qatar and Sudan against interfering in Libyan affairs,” said Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani.

“We will cut off diplomatic relations with them if they don’t stop.”

On Tuesday, Qatari Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Rumaihi rejected what he described as "misleading and unfounded allegations" by Libya.

He said Qatar should not be dragged into Libya's "internal disputes", in a statement released late Monday by Qatari state news agency QNA.

Sudan also denies the allegation.

Libya has slid into chaos since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, with interim authorities confronting powerful militias which fought to oust the veteran dictator.

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