What is happening in Libya?

Pratyaksh Srivastava
Members of the Libyan internationally recognised government forces are seen in Al-Swani area in Tripoli, Libya April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Libya has been embroiled in a tussle for power between rival militias ever since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power and got assassinated in October 2011. Gaddafi’s assassination marked the end of an eventful 42 years of rule by a former Army officer who took over the reins of power from King Idris in a military coup in 1969.

In the wake of Gaddafi’s ouster, dozens of militias led by multiple war-lords scrambled to occupy the power vacuum left behind by Gaddafi’s death. As a result, Libya turned into a war zone with different militant leaders claiming control of the North African nation.

What’s the present situation?

After eight years of the factional violence in Libya, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar has surfaced as the strongest war-lord, presently vying for the control of the Libyan capital in Tripoli. Haftar launched an advance towards the Libyan capital on April 4 in order to capture power from Fayez al-Sarraj-led Government of National Accord (GNA) which is recognised by the United Nations.

As Haftar's forces continue their advance towards Tripoli and fighting continues for the control of the Libyan capital, GNA has stated that it would seek the prosecution of military leader Haftar in the International Criminal Court.

Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

How is Khalifa Haftar challenging a UN-recognised government?

Haftar’s forces are presently combating government forces of the GNA. Haftar has been able to challenge GNA because foreign powers reportedly support him in some capacity. These countries include Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. France rejected GNA’s accusations claiming that Haftar is being supported by them. The French government called these accusations to be "completely unfounded".

"France supports the legitimate government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the mediation of the UN towards an inclusive political solution in Libya," the French presidency was quoted as saying in a statement.

Libya’s Interior Minister Fathi Bach Agha has reportedly ordered the "suspension of all relations between the ministry and the French side… due to the position of the French government in support of the criminal Haftar," the interior ministry in Tripoli informed.

Where does the US stand on Haftar’s advance towards Tripoli?

the White House said Friday that President Donald Trump had a telephonic conversation with Haftar. According to a Reuters report, Trump discussed ongoing counterterrorism efforts by the leader of a military assault on the capital of Libya in opposition to the country’s internationally recognised government.

"The President recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system," the White House statement read.

It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call. Both the United States and Russia said they were presently not ready to support a UN Security Council resolution that demands for a ceasefire in Libya.

Libyan National Army (LNA) members, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, equip the military vehicles to get out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Why is Haftar opposing the Libyan government?

Haftar holds the view that the armed uprisings over the years have encouraged Islamist powers and accuses the UN-recognised government to be sympathetic for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist umbrella organisation that has been associated with globally recognised terrorist organisations.GNA’s alleged support to Islamist groups has led to a situation wherein countries like Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have lent support to the militant leader.

Indians stranded in Libya

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday, urged the Indian nationals stranded in Libya’s capital Tripoli to leave the war-torn country with immediate effect. Swaraj also informed that 500 Indian nationals continue to be in the Libyan capital despite the travel ban imposed on Libya.

READ | Sushma Swaraj urges Indians stranded in Tripoli to leave immediately

"Even after massive evacuation from Libya and the travel ban, there are over 500 Indian nationals in Tripoli. The situation in Tripoli is deteriorating fast. Presently, flights are operational...Pls ask your relatives and friends to leave Tripoli immediately. We will not be able to evacuate them later," tweeted Swaraj.