Eastern Libyan troops commanded by Khalifa Haftar said on Friday they had advanced into the southern outskirts of the capital Tripoli in a dangerous thrust against the internationally recognized government.
Fighting was going on near the former international airport, which Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) force controlled by nightfall, an LNA spokesman and residents said.
The move by the LNA, which is allied to a parallel administration based in the east, escalated a power struggle that has splintered the nation since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
It came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres departed after meeting Haftar to try to avert civil war.
“I leave Libya with a heavy heart and deeply concerned. I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli,” he said on Twitter.
The U.N. Security Council was briefed behind closed doors on the latest developments on Friday and expressed deep concern in a statement read after the meeting by German U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, president of the council for April.
“They (the council) called on LNA forces to halt all military movements. They also called on all forces to de-escalate and halt military activity. There can be no military solution to the conflict,” Heusgen said.
Haftar, 75, who casts himself as an opponent of Islamist extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new Gaddafi, was quoted by Al-Arabiya TV as telling Guterres the operation would continue until terrorism was defeated.
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