BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:45 P.M.) – The Haftar-led Libyan National Army scored an important advance on Thursday, seizing a town just 100km south of the capital city of Tripoli.
According to reports, the Libyan National Army seized the town of Ghariyan after a short battle with the Tripoli-backed Government of National Accord forces.
The developments signified a serious escalation of the conflict in Libya that has dragged on since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
“We fully control Gharyan and right now as we speak I’m driving through the town,” Abdelsalam al-Hassi, commander of the operation to secure western Libya, told Reuters by telephone.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meanwhile appealed for restraint by the rival factions.
Libya has been divided between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and a parallel administration allied to Haftar since Gaddafi’s downfall.
Gharyan, lying in the Western mountains about 100 km due south of the capital, had been allied to the Tripoli government.
The two sides fought skirmishes on Wednesday but these had ceased, town mayor Yousef al-Bdairi said earlier on Thursday.
A town resident told Reuters: “The town now is under control of the army who came from the east and I can see their vehicles with their Libyan National Army logo.”
Guterres, who arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday to promote peace talks, said in a tweet before Gharyan’s capture that he was deeply concerned by the military movements and the risk of confrontation.
“There is no military solution. Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country,” he said.