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Turkey slams threat from 'Libyan Air Forces'

Turkey warns its citizens in Libya to evacuate 'immediately'
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu delivers a speech in Ankara on 7 January 7 (AFP)

Turkey condemned on Wednesday a statement that was allegedly released by the Libyan Air Forces' Facebook account, which said that all Turkish civilian or military planes will be shot down if they enter Libyan airspace.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the alleged statement was "hostile" and "illegitimate."

“It is obvious that those who released this statement are from certain groups who have caused civilian losses and the demolition of the country’s infrastructure by launching air strikes in Libya, and who have violated international law and human rights,” the statement said.

The ministry statement also blamed the international community for not reacting to the air strikes up till now.

"Necessary steps have started to be taken," the statement said, adding that officials have raised the issue to the UN Secretary General's Libya Representative.

‘Immediate’ evacuation

Meanwhile, Turkey's Foreign Ministry has warned Turkish citizens in Libya to evacuate the country "immediately" through a statement released late on Wednesday.

"Because of the conflict and the airstrikes in Libya recently, we are suggesting to our citizens to leave the country immediately," the statement said.

The ministry also said that the Turkish Consulate General in Misrata and call center can be reached 24/7 during an emergency.

In the time since the country's dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown, rival militias widely believed to be backed by regional powers have fought for control of Libya. An alliance of Islamist and other militias captured the capital Tripoli last year and revived an earlier government and parliament.

The Tripoli government accuses Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of backing its rivals in Tobruk, including by carrying out airstrikes. The Tobruk government says Turkey and Qatar back Islamist militias.

A Libyan warplane from forces loyal to the internationally recognized government bombed a Greek-operated oil tanker anchored offshore on Sunday, killing two crewmen in an escalation of a battle between the country's rival factions.

Shortly after the attack, Turkish Airlines (THY), the only foreign airline still flying to Libya, suspended its flights to Misrata over concerns of worsening security in the country.

The Libyan Shield Force, an Islamist rebel militia, has been engaged in fighting with rival militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, over control of the capital's strategic facilities.