Libya: The Hidden Turkish Intervention

Alessandro Lattanzio

As of 30 April, the LNA controlled 1259800 square kilometres of territory (equal to 77.58% of the surface of Libya, including 6.5% of the Tuariq Council area), the Tebus controlled 260989 square kilometres (16.07%) and the GNA 103081 square kilometres (6.35%).

On May 2, the LNA interrupted the supply lines between Sadiyah and Aziziya, while advancing on Aziziya from Hira and Qasarat.

On May 3, the barracks of the 166th Brigade of the Libyan National Army near Sabha was attacked, causing nine deaths. The attack on the Sabha training camp was the work of ISIL terrorists, who murdered eight soldiers, beheading one, as they already did in Buabat al-Faha, Baraq Shati and Darna. The action was a demonstration of the links between GNA and Islamist terrorism.

Numerous terrorists were treated in the Italian camp hospital of Misurata, according to the Media Centre of the al-Qarama Operative Centre of the LNA:

“We have received confirmed intelligence information on the Italian camp hospital in Misurata which treats numerous terrorists fighting alongside the Muslim Brotherhood and the militias”; listing the terrorists treated in the Italian hospital of Misurata:

Muhamad Abdalqani, known as Abu Zubayr, of ISIL
Asad Qudayr al-Shami known as Abu Qatada, of Bayt al-Maqdis
Abdalwahab Mahmud al-Asali, of Bayt al-Maqdis
Abu al-Layth, of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
Hasan Abdalwadud, known as Abu Sayaf, of ISIL
Ayman Tahar al-Isqandarani, known as Abu Fatima, of ISIL in Algeria
Abdulah Hasan al-Iraqi, of ISIL in Algeria
Said al-Mashgul, known as Abu al-Bara, of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
Ibrahim Ataf Qudayr, known as Abu al-Dahma, al-Murabitin Army terrorist organisation

The statement confirmed the arrest of terrorists from the Egyptian organisation Hisham Ashmawi arrested in Darna. “We know that the Italian forces have assigned this field hospital to fight terrorism and not to support it”, concluded the statement of the Operations Room al-Qarama.

On May 5, the LNA advanced in the Qahali quarter, freeing the al-Naq petrol station, and liberated Sabiah and Suq al-Sabat, arriving on the southern outskirts of Suani.

On May 7, the LNA shot down a GNA Mirage F-1, taken off from Misurata, on al-Hirah, south of Tripoli, capturing its pilot.

On May 10, the LNA advanced on Tuisha and clashed with the GNA west of Sabiah.

Meanwhile, a leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organization, arrived in Libya from Syria to join the Islamist militias of the GNA that were fighting against the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Tripoli. Nusret Imamovic was a Bosnian who studied Islamic Sharia in Sarajevo. He had been fighting for Jabhat al-Nusrah in Syria since 2012, and resided in Azaz, Governorate of Aleppo, before Syrian forces freed the area.

On May 11, the LNA recaptured the Zahra Bridge.

On 13 May, the Tobruq Parliament voted on the law defining the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. An LNA airstrike destroyed the headquarters of the al-Faruq brigade in al-Zuiya, west of Tripoli, eliminating a leader of the ISIL, Safwan al-Jabar.

On the 14th of May, the LNA shot down a UAV of Turkish manufacture, belonging to the GNA of Misurata, at the air base of al-Jufra.

On May 16, the Saqa units of the LNA entered Tripoli from the south. Qalifa Haftar met in Rome with council president Giuseppe Conte, who called for a ceasefire.

On May 17, Fathi al-Majbri, Vice President of the Presidency Council of the Government of the National Accord, accused Fayaz al-Saraj of using his powers for personal gain, of the failure of the political process and of the outbreak of war in Tripoli. Al-Majbri declared that al-Saraj was obsessed with power and willing to do anything to stay in power;

“What civil status are you talking about while violating the simple principles of government administration? Fayaz al-Sarraj manages the country with the de facto authority of outlaw militias. Al-Saraj has allied himself with extremist groups and today they are the backbone of the forces fighting against the Libyan army”.

Meanwhile the GNA admitted that it had lost Sabratha and Surman, stating “that the two municipalities were now taking orders from the parallel government in the eastern region”, in other words, the interim government of Bayda led by Abdullah al-Thani. GNA’s Ministry of Local Government said Surman supported what he described as “aggression against Tripoli”. U.S. public relations firm Mercury signed a $2 million a year contract with Fayaz al-Saraj to spread favourable propaganda through the Wall Street Journal, including an article on May 9 asking President Donald Trump to support al-Saraj rather than Field Marshal Qalifa Haftar.

On May 18, the Islamist factions of the government of Fayaz al-Saraj received Bulgarian MG-M1 machine guns and ammunition, delivered to the GNA from Turkey along with at least 40 BMC Kirpi II and Vuran armored ammunition, disembarked from the Amazon cargo ship, in Misurata, to repel the operations of the Libyan National Army in Tripoli. Kirpi armored vehicles are produced by the Turkish company BMC in Samsun. The BMC was sold in 2014 to the Committee for the Industry of the Armed Forces of Qatar by Turkish businessman Ethem Sançak, a member of the governing body of the Justice and Development Party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. BMC manufactures the new Turkish tank Altay, whose deliveries began in December 2018, and in March 2019 Qatar ordered 100 of them. In January 2019, Turkey and Qatar opened a military engine plant in Karasu, northwest Turkey.

On May 20, the LNA captured the transport base of Tripoli, advancing towards Qalat Qafar and Nasr.

On May 21, the head of the Tarhuna Salah al-Fanidi council declared at a meeting of commanders and tribal leaders in Sidi Sayah that the Tarhuna, Bani Walid, Warshafana and Nuahi al-Arbah tribes supported the Libyan National Army in operations in Tripoli.

On 22 May, the LNA freed the Walid district of Tripoli.

On May 24, the LNA freed Ramlah and advanced to Ayn Zara.

On May 25, the Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced south and east of Tripoli with the support of the Libyan Air Force.

On May 28, the LNA advanced in the Walid district while the GNA reoccupied the transport field. Egyptian Intelligence Director (GIS) Abas Qamal visited Libya and met Qalifa Haftar. Fayaz al-Saraj visited Malta.

On 29 May, 1 Dassault Falcon 900EX (I-OUNI) from the Italian secret service took off from Tripoli.

On 30 May, Qalifa Haftar visited Moscow.

On May 31, the head of the LNA’s al-Qarama information office, Qalid al-Mahjub, confirmed the arrival of 12 Turkish military instructors at Misurata.

On June 3, the LNA repelled the attack by the GNA forces on the international airport of Tripoli, after two days of combat and the elimination of 31 GNA fighters, the arrest of dozens more and the destruction of many of their military vehicles and artillery pieces. ISIL detonated two car bombs in Darna, killing and injuring 19 people. The LNA repelled the ISIL attack on checkpoint 400 in al-Fuqaha, al-Jufra region. Salah al-Raqi, GNA undersecretary in the Ministry of Housing and head of the Islamist militia Fursan Janzour, was eliminated in clashes with LNA forces in Tripoli.

On June 4, 18 GNA militiamen were eliminated in clashes at al-Tuysha, south-west of Tripoli Airport.

On June 7, the LNA destroyed military aircraft at the Mitiga airport occupied by the GNA, including at least one Turkish armed drone.

On June 8, the LNA freed the Tuayshah, Ramalah and Tariq bin Ziyad area by advancing on Suani, south of the airport, and Walid.

On June 10, GNA forces withdrew from the Ayn Zara – Fuzi Al-Mansuri line in Tripoli.

On June 13, a GNA L-39ZA aircraft was shot down at al-Dafniyah, 200 km south-east of Tripoli, as it flew to the Misurata air base.

On June 20, the LNA repelled the GNA attack on Tripoli International Airport.

On June 21, a GNA unit, Battalion al-Uburm, moved to the LNA.

On June 24, the GNA forces were repelled by the LNA at al-Tuaisha, south-west of Tripoli International Airport, attacking on two axes: the airport road from Dakla and the Qazirmah area.

On June 26, the LNA entered Qaryan and eliminated 11 GNA fighters, but after a surprise attack by the GNA forces, the LNA decided to withdraw from the city 100 km south of Tripoli. The LNA repelled a GNA raid on al-Quasim and Abu Shiba, northwest of Qaryan.

On June 26, the Libyan National Army handed over captured U.S. mercenary to U.S. officials. Jamie Sponaugle was a mercenary pilot captured after his plane was shot down during the fighting in Tripoli, he had received orders from the GNA to destroy Libyan infrastructure. The GNA, with Turkish, Italian and French support, launched a major attack south of Tripoli, occupying Hira, Buqaylan, Quasim and Wadi Shaybah.

On 27 June, LNA Major Muhamad Ahmad al-Targi fell in combat in al-Quasim, north of Qaryan. As the LNA withdrew from Qaryan after the attack launched by the GNA.

On June 28, a Lockheed Martin C-130J of the Italian Air Force departing from the base of Pisa San Giusto landed in Misurata, with supplies for the Italian military hospital in Misurata.

On June 28, LNA repelled the attack on al-Sabia, 40 km south of Tripoli, advancing on al-Aziya. After leaving Qaryan, the LNA command moved to Tarhuna. Meanwhile, Qalifa Haftar also arrived in Tarhuna, 60km southeast of Tripoli. Following the aggression of Qaryan, where 28 wounded in the hospital were killed by the Islamists of Fayaz Saraj.

On 29 June, the General Command of the Libyan National Army declared:

“While the forces of the Libyan National Army are fighting terrorism on Libyan territory, terrorists in our country have had Turkish logistical support for years. In recent days it has evolved into direct Turkish intervention using war planes, transporting mercenaries and sending ships loaded with weapons, ammunition and armoured vehicles to support terrorism in Libya. Therefore, the General Command of the Libyan National Army ordered the Air Force to target Turkish ships and boats within Libyan territorial waters.

The Interim Government must expel all Turkish companies operating in Libya and end their operations on all projects on Libyan territory, boycotting Turkish industries and products and stopping civilian flights to and from Turkey at Libyan airports in response to this Turkish terrorist attack. Turkish drones had bombed several locations at the airport south of Tripoli, in support of the Islamist militias of Fayaz al-Saraj in Tripoli”.

The week before, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that his government had provided arms, ammunition and military support to the al-Saraj gangs.

Qalid al-Mahjub, spokesman for the Tripoli Operations Room of the Libyan National Army (LNA), stated that there was a Turkish Operations Room leading the Islamist groups of the Fayaz al-Saraj government in battle, composed of numerous Turkish army officers, who trained the al-Saraj Islamist militias during battles against the Libyan National Army in the southern districts of Tripoli. Al-Mahjub declared that the Turkish Operations Room was located in the Mitiga airport in the centre of Tripoli, and that they also used Turkish drones taking off from the Air College of Misurata, under mercenary command.

On June 30, an LNA air attack on the Mitiga international airport destroyed 1 Turkish UAV while taking off. The Libyan National Army arrested several Turkish citizens, engaged in sabotage and subversion operations and in coordinating Ankara’s military support to the Islamist government of Tripoli. The detainees were General-Major Güksel Kahya, Deputy Minister of Defence of Turkey, General-Major Irfan Ozsert, Head of Military Intelligence and Secretary General of the Turkish General Staff, General-Major Levent Ergond, responsible for the operations of the Turkish armed forces abroad, Rear Admiral Gersoy Zaipanar, Brigadier General Ilkay Altyndach and Brigadier General Selcuk Yavuz, responsible for the actions of the special forces on the Syrian border.

Levent Ergon was sentenced for illegal activities to 13 years in prison, but was released by the Erdogan government, which then appointed him in charge of the operations of the Turkish armed forces.

Ilkay Altyndach was imprisoned for disseminating secret documents, but was released by Erdogan and in 2018 promoted to brigadier general.

Rear Admiral Gersoy Zaipanar was sentenced and sentenced to 16 years in prison for conspiracy, but was released by Erdogan.

Brigadier General Selcuk Yavuz led an offensive in Syria with the special units he directed.

According to the Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, “such people would be Erdogan’s neo-nationalist dream team for dirty operations abroad. They are all indebted to Erdogan and therefore happy to carry out any sordid action, such as supporting Islamist groups to use them as agents of influence… it is clear that they were engaged in military and intelligence operations in Libya”.

The Ministry of Defence of Benghazi declared that Turkey was the sanctuary of terrorists sought by the Libyan National Army.

On July 1, the GNA militia leader Ahrar Libya, Isam Qatus, was eliminated in the clashes in Laft. He was appointed NTC ambassador to Niger in 2014.

GNA L-39 planes launched by Misurata bombed Tarhuna, 65 km south-east of Tripoli.

Fayaz al-Saraj flew to Italy to meet the Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini in Milan. Saraj asked for a “reserved” meeting to obtain more military aid from the Italian government in favour of GNA.

GNA sources stated that “the government of Tripoli greatly appreciates the role and position of Italy, but at this point calls for a greater effort to consolidate the political role of a Libyan government recognized by the United Nations. We have asked for weapons, we have asked for intelligence, medical support, and at least stronger, more evident, more open political support”.

On July 2, the LNA Air Force bombarded 30 GNA targets at al-Azizya, Swani and Tajura. At least 90 GNA fighters were eliminated.

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