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Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar's 2-week advance on Tripoli

Wednesday April 17 2019

Khalifa Haftar's fighters

A grab, obtained from a video on the Facebook page of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army War Information Division, shows a tank firing its turret reportedly in a southern suburb of Tripoli, April 16, 2019. PHOTO | LNA WAR INFORMATION DIVISION | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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TRIPOLI,

Rockets struck central Tripoli late Tuesday for the first time since military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign almost two weeks ago to seize the Libyan capital.

Nearly 190 people have been killed and more than 18,000 displaced since the start of Mr Haftar's offensive to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognised unity government.

Here is a recap: 

Launching the offensive by his Libyan National Army (LNA) militia, Mr Haftar says in an online audio message on April 4: "The time has come."

The LNA, which controls swathes of the east of oil-rich Libya, said the previous day it was preparing to purge the west of the country of "terrorists and mercenaries".

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A convoy of LNA vehicles had pushed towards the city of Gharyan, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital.

MAXIMUM ALERT

The Tripoli government announces a "state of maximum alert" and its chief, Fayez al-Sarraj, orders loyalist forces to prepare to "face all threats".

On April 5, armed clashes flare some 50 kilometres south of Tripoli between a pro-government alliance and mR Haftar's forces.

On April 7, Mr Haftar's forces say they have carried out their first air strike on a Tripoli suburb where the Government of National Accord (GNA) is based.

Pro-GNA forces announce a counteroffensive, "Volcano of Anger", aimed at "purging all Libyan cities of aggressor and illegitimate forces".

TRUCE

As fighting rages in the south of Tripoli, the UN calls for an urgent two-hour truce to allow evacuations of civilians and wounded.

The US military temporarily pulls some of its forces out of the country and Washington demands an "immediate halt" to Mr Haftar's offensive.

On April 8 warplanes carry out an air strike against Tripoli's only functioning airport, Mitiga, without causing casualties.

Moscow, a key supporter of Mr Haftar, urges "all sides to reject actions that could provoke bloodshed".

DOZENS DEAD

With dozens already dead, the United Nations reports that thousands are fleeing the capital.

The EU calls for all sides to stop military action and return to the negotiating table.

On April 9, the UN postpones a conference aimed at drawing up a roadmap towards elections because of fighting near the capital.

The LNA meanwhile accuses the unity government of "allying itself with Islamist militias".

The next day it claims to have seized a barracks in the Aziziya area around 50 kilometres south of Tripoli after "ferocious clashes".

It says fighters loyal to the UN-recognised government were detained and their weapons seized.

FIGHTER JET

UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for a ceasefire and the UN children's agency Unicef says nearly half a million children in Tripoli are at direct risk.

On April 12, there are clashes in the southern suburbs of Ain Zara, Wadi Rabi and al-Swani about 20 kilometres from the city centre.

On April 14, the UN-recognised government says its forces shot down a fighter jet belonging to Mr Haftar's forces.

The LNA confirms the loss of a MiG-23 aircraft but attributes it to "technical failure".

Mr Haftar meanwhile meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an ardent supporter.

Rockets hit central Tripoli late on April 16 for the first time since his offensive was launched, striking the neighbourhoods of Abu Salim and Al-Antisar.

Six people were killed and 35 wounded, officials say. The LNA blames the rocket fire on the "terrorist militias".