December 12, 2019 / 7:00 PM / 8 months ago

Libyan commander urges forces to advance toward central Tripoli

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan Commander Khalifa Haftar urged his forces to advance toward the center of Tripoli on Thursday in what he said would be the “final battle” for the capital.

Haftar, who heads the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive in April to try to take control of Tripoli which stalled on the outskirts of the city.

“Today we announce the decisive battle and the advancement toward the heart of the capital to set it free ...advance now our heroes,” Haftar said in a televised speech broadcast on Thursday.

His forces have often issued announcements of advances or decisive military action that have been followed by little concrete change on the battlefield.

“Our forces are ready to fight any new insane attempt,” by Haftar to attack the city, Libya’s al-Ahrar channel quoted Tripoli’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha as saying.

Haftar is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials. The LNA denies it has foreign backing.

Additional reporting by Alaa Swilam; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Amina Ismail; Editing by Toby Chopra

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