Libya: LNA attacks Turkish arms ship with rockets

Forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has confirmed that it has attacked a Turkish ship in Tripoli’s Seaport, suspected to be bearing weapons for the Government of National Accord (GNA). The ships were attacked with surface-to-surface rockets on 18 February.

“Yesterday we targeted weapons and ammunition that were being brought into Tripoli seaport,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said during a press conference on the following day. “This wasn’t an offensive operation, it was a defensive operation to prevent the terrorist groups from procuring advanced weapons and ammunition.”

Note that earlier on 28 June 2019, the spokesman of the Eastern Libyan forces, Ahmed Mismari said that Commander Khalifa Haftar will ban any commercial flights from Libya to Turkey and that any aircraft or ship arriving from Turkey attempting to land or berth in the capital Tripoli would be treated as hostile.

Following the attack at the Tripoli Seaport, the LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari criticized the UN Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salamé for describing the attack as a breach of a ceasefire agreed in Berlin without noting that the arrival of an arms ship from Turkey was also a violation.

The rocket attack, resulted in three civilian deaths and five injured, however, Libyan-based journalists who investigated the damages reported that most of the shipping containers in the port did not contain weapons.

Although, a Maxar satellite image taken before the attack showed similar shipping containers arranged in order to conceal the unloading of cargo from a ship docked alongside.

Most of the shipping containers in the port did not contain weapons. (Note the damages on the containers)

During the media investigation, Salamé told the media that: “As long as the truce continues to be violated, as it was today against the port of Tripoli, it is very, very difficult to imagine a dialogue and a negotiation between the two parties”.

Since April last year, Hafter’s Libyan Arab Armed Forces have been waging an offensive to capture Tripoli with little success, but with high civilian and military casualties.

Haftar who is angry at Turkey for providing air cover and weapons to the UN-backed Tripoli government to re-take key town Gharyan. Turkish President Erdogan has severally acknowledged selling weapons to the GNA however, he didn’t specify the type.

Libya has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011 when its de facto leader and dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and subsequently killed by a NATO-led offensive.

Since then, the oil-rich north African country has sunk into chaos and turmoil. The warring factions are currently divided between the Government of National Accord (GNA), a U.N.-supported government, based in the capital, Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and supported by an array of militias, Turkey, Italy and Qatar against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar and supported by United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russian mercenaries.

Although in early January this year, world powers agreed at a conference in Berlin to respect the arms embargo against Libya, this has failed to yield any tangible results because weapons have continued to flow into the country unabated.

Darek Liam

Darek Liam is the North African editor for AMB, where he writes about the intersection of Technology and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as African Union correspondent.

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