Forces loyal to renegade general claim Tripoli air strikes

Tripoli residents reported jets flying over the city after midnight followed by explosions.

FILE: A picture taken on 17 August 2014 shows a tank during fightings between rival militias around Tripoli international airport. Picture: AFP.

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI - Libyan forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar are responsible for air strikes in the capital Tripoli, one of his senior officers told Reuters on Monday.

Tripoli residents reported jets flying over the city after midnight followed by explosions, and Libyan media said the aircraft had targeted militias from Misrata which have been battling with a rival group for control of the city.

"We, the operation dignity, officially confirm to have conducted air strikes on some militias' locations belonging to Misrata militias," said Haftar's air defence commander, Saqer al-Jouroushi. He was referring to Haftar's campaign against Islamists.

Fighting between brigades from Misrata and Zintan has raged through Tripoli for more than a month, forcing the United Nations, Western and Arab countries to evacuate their embassies and citizens.

But clashes had been limited to ground action with artillery and rockets.

The weak government has no functioning national army and almost no control over Tripoli, with most officials working from Tobruk in Libya's far-east where the new parliament has set up to escape the violence.

An Egyptian security source said air traffic between the two countries had been interrupted for six hours and that Libyan air controllers had cited security reasons.

FOREIGN INVOLVEMENT?

Some Tripoli residents, tired of daily fighting disrupting power and food supplies, hope that NATO would intervene in Libya as it did in 2011 when the alliance sent jets to bomb Gaddafi forces in support of the uprising that toppled him.

Libyan news channels speculated that the country's neighbours might be behind the action overnight.

A US official and an Egyptian security source, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said their countries had not been involved. A NATO official said: "There are no fighter jets under NATO command involved in operations over Libya."

On Sunday, the UN Mission in Libya said it "deeply regrets that there was no response to the repeated international appeals and its own efforts for an immediate ceasefire."

The new UN special envoy, Bernardino Leon, who is due to start his job on 1 September, said he might travel to Tripoli as early as this week.