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Benghazi residents protest Turkish intervention in Libya

Residents of Benghazi gathered to protest against Turkish support for the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) on Sunday.

The anti-Turkey demonstrators, who gathered in front of the Tibesti Hotel in the centre of the city, expressed their support for the LNA, which is currently engaged in continuous operations in Tripoli, targeting armed militias.

Civilian activist Abdelhamid Al-Gatruni said “I say to the Turkish people that their policy must change, and they must make a serious stand, because your interests are with Libya, because the Turkish people and the Libyan people are Muslim peoples.”

Libya is split between the GNA in Tripoli, and the Tobruk government led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is in control of eastern Libya and heads the Libyan National Army (LNA).

On 5 July, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul that he has Ankara’s support to ensure Libya’s peace and stability.

Haftar’s forces launched an offensive in early April to seize the capital from the government.

Last month, Ankara warned it would retaliate against any assault from Haftar’s forces after he ordered them to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, Turkey’s defence minister told state media.

“There will be a very heavy price for hostile attitudes or attacks, we will retaliate in the most effective and strong way,” Hulusi Akar told Turkish state news agency Anadolu during his visit with the president to Osaka, Japan for the G20 summit.

He said Turkey’s efforts in Libya sought to “contribute to peace and stability in the region”.

“It should be known that we have taken all kinds of measures to deal with any threat or antagonistic action against Turkey,” Akar added.

The comments came after the Libyan militia leader Haftar ordered his fighters to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country.

“Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters,” said General Ahmad al-Mesmari, claiming that Ankara is backing Haftar’s rivals.

“Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces.”

Turkey’s interest in Libya goes back to its Ottoman past as the country was part of the empire until 1912 when Italy then conquered the north African country.

Libya has been mired in chaos as multiple militias vied for power after a NATO-backed uprising resulted in dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s death in 2011.

Haftar was a retired general who took part in the uprising but in May 2014 he launched his assault to purge the country of Islamists whom he says are “terrorists”.

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