Haftar announces air war against Turkish forces in Libya
Haftar announces 'largest aerial campaign' against Turkish forces in Libya
Militias led by Khalifa Haftar have suffered a series of defeats in Libya following intervention by Turkey.
Forces allied to Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar have announced an "air campaign" against Turkish troops across the North African country, as the rebel leader suffered a major tactical setback this week.
Haftar's air force chief, Saqr al-Jaroushi, vowed to strike Turkish military positions in Libya, according to a report by Bloomberg on Thursday.
It comes after Government of National Accord (GNA) in forces, backed by Turkey, captured an airfield outside Tripoli on Monday, used as the forward base for Haftar's offensive on the capital.
"You are about to see the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history in the coming hours," Haftar's air force chief Saqr al-Jaroushi said in a statement.
"All Turkish positions and interests in all cities are legitimate targets for our airforce jets and we call on civilians to stay away from them."
The Al-Watiyah airbase, outside Tripoli, fell to the GNA after the UN-recognised authority was boosted by hundreds of Syrian rebel fighters and Turkish military hardware.
Turkish drones knocked out Haftar's heavy weaponry prior to the assault on the airbase, including the Russian-made, UAE supplies Pantsir-S1 air defence system.
Haftar has been reliant on the UAE, Egypt and Russia for military hardware, including air support and mercenaries.
He has also been boosted by Syrian fighters - including former rebels - supplied by Bashar Al-Assad's regime via Russia.
Turkey responded to the threat from Haftar's air force chief by issuing its own warning.
A senior Turkish official told Bloomberg that Ankara would "heavily retaliate" against any strike on its forces in Libya - including targeting Haftar's headquarters in his eastern stronghold.
The official said that Turkey was well-prepared to defend its personnel in Libya with the deployment of drones and war ships off the country's coast.
Fathi Bashagha, the GNA's security chief, said that eight Soviet-era military jets had been deployed to eastern Libya - controlled by Haftar - from Syria, in preparation for a possible air campaign.
Leading UN official in Libya, Stephanie Williams, warned Tuesday that the war in Libya "intensify, broaden and deepen" due to foreign interference.
Turkey's intervention in the war comes after Haftar's assault on Tripoli began in 2019 and has seen artillery and air strikes on civilian areas, including the use of armed UAE drones.
An air strike widely attributed to Haftar's forces on a refugee detention centre in 2019 killed 44 people.
Thousands more have died and 200,000 have fled their homes following Haftar's assault on the capital.