Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar has ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the North African state, his spokesman said Friday, accusing Ankara of supporting Haftar’s rivals in the Libyan conflict.
“Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters,” said General Ahmad al-Mesmari.
“Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces,” he added.
He also declared that any aircraft arriving from Turkey attempting to land in the capital Tripoli would be treated as hostile. The same would apply to Turkish ships docking at Libyan ports.
The spokesman said Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) force would attack any Turkish military presence, without elaborating.
Turkey supports Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli which on Wednesday dealt a blow to eastern forces trying to seize the capital in a three-month campaign.
Turkey has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to UN-backed Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, while the LNA has received support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats.
Haftar’s offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilize Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-rich nation divided and caused living standards to plummet.
The conflict risks disrupting oil production, creating a vacuum to be exploited by militants and prompting more migrants to leave for Italy by boat.
Libya has been the scene of fighting between rival groups since the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a popular revolt and a Western military intervention.
His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.