As Western nations called for an end to violence in Libya, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani said his forces are ready to take back control of the capital Tripoli and Benghazi, which are in the hands of Islamist militants. The country has been a war zone since its 2011 revolution toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi, leaving groups of militias controlling different parts of the North African country.
"All military forces have been placed under army command to liberate Tripoli and Benghazi soon, God willing," al-Thani told Agence France-Presse Saturday. The internationally recognized leader has been trying to bring together different armed groups under military command to form an effective force against Ansar al-Shariah, a group with aims in Libya similar to the ones embraced by Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, an exiled former general who returned to join the revolution, began fighting Wednesday to wrest control of Benghazi from the radical Islamist group. This is the second attempt to retake the country’s second-largest city. Haftar’s forces have been holed up in the airport outside of Benghazi for the past month.
Tripoli fell in August to a separate Islamist group, Fajr Libya. Al-Thani’s government retreated to the east near the border with Tunisia near a smaller Islamist group, the Derna’s Islamic Youth Movement, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
A joint statement released Saturday from the governments of France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. The statement also questioned Haftar’s authority to engage fighters in Benghazi.
“We consider that Libya’s security challenges and the fight against terrorist organizations can only be sustainably addressed by regular armed forces under the control of a central authority which is accountable to a democratic and inclusive parliament,” the statement reads.