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Haftar orders closure of Benghazi port, threatens to shell ships entering Libya

General Haftar threatens to target ships entering Port of Benghazi, as PM Thani vows to cut ties with Qatar and Sudan over support for militias
Haftar first threatened to attack Benghazi port, second biggest in Libya, in early August (AFP)

Retired Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who has been engaged in an anti-militia campaign since May, threatened on Sunday 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.

The port is currently still working at 70 percent of its full capacity, despite the instability facing the country as a whole.

He sent a letter to port officials, telling them that his troops would shoot any ships entering the port if it was not closed down, according to Libyan activists.

He said in his letter that port officials should direct incoming ships to the eastern Port of Tobruk instead.

Haftar's spokesman Mohamed Hegazi said on Monday that the rogue general, who launched his Operation Dignity campaign without permission from the official armed forces, had earlier warned the port administration against allowing in any ships apart from oil tankers.

"We renew the same warning today," Hegazi told Anadolu Agency, noting that in case of violations, air forces loyal to Haftar would strike ships entering the port.

Rival militias have been controlling the Port of Benghazi since 26 June, after bloody battles with troops loyal to the retired general.

The battles left four people dead and 17 others wounded.

Qatar, Sudan threatened over support for militias

Haftar’s warning about the seemingly steady supply of weapons to militias in Libya comes as the head of the House of Representatives, Abdullah al-Thani, accused Qatar of sending three planes packed with military aid for Islamist fighters.

Speaking in an interview with Sky News Arabia on Sunday evening, al-Thani alleged that “three Qatari planes delivered weapons to Libya Dawn”, in addition to a Sudanese shipment.

He did not give details of when the alleged shipment took place.

“We warned Qatar and Sudan against interfering in Libyan affairs – we will cut off diplomatic relations with them if they don’t stop," he said.

There has as yet been no comment from Doha or Khartoum regarding the allegations.

However, the Sudanese army denied on 6 September offering any kind of support to any of the warring parties in Libya.

The warning comes a day after Libya’s recently-elected House of Representatives (HoR) dismissed the head of the country’s central bank over allegations that he had been supportive of the General National Council, the HoR’s rival government whose mandate expired two months ago but which reconvened in the capital Tripoli recently.