LNA Spokesman Says Qatar Sent Armed Forces to Benghazi, Controls Tripoli’s Power Supply

Cairo, London- Libya National Army Spokesman Colonel Ahmad al-Mesmary revealed on Friday that multiple conflict zones overrun by extremist militias were run by Doha.

He further clarified his claims by saying that direct funding and deployment of an armed faction into eastern Benghazi took place in 2012, and still is present till this very day under the name Al-Fad Al-Aswaad (Arabic for ‘black panther’).

Col. Mesmary said in a televised broadcast that Qatar also has its grip around power networks in Libya’s Tripoli.

He also demanded that Libya joins the Saudi-led Gulf plus Egypt boycott against Qatar.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia along with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a boycott on Qatar on June 5 and cut off all transport links with the country after accusing it of supporting terrorism and close ties to Iran.

According to press reports, Qatar has been sending massive amounts of weapons and cash to Islamist militants battling the Western-backed government in Libya. A March 2013 UN report noted that in 2011 and 2012, Qatar violated the UN arms embargo by “providing military material to the revolutionary forces through the organization of a large number of flights and the deliveries of a range of arms and ammunition.”

On the other hand, Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar is scheduled to visit Moscow on Saturday for discussions over a peace plan including a ceasefire and political talks, a Russian official said Friday.

Haftar will discuss “the issue of his eventual meeting with the prime minister” of Libya’s recognized government, Fayez al-Sarraj, said Lev Dengov, who heads Russia’s Libya contact group.

“Relevant questions on reconciling the parties and the conflict will be raised,” Dengov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Oil-rich Libya has been in turmoil since the ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, turning the country into a hub for human trafficking and drawing extremist groups from the region.

The United Nations has been struggling for months to relaunch talks on a deal reached in 2015 on setting up a national unity government that has been rejected by Haftar and other factions.

Appointed last year to lead the new government of national accord, Sarraj has failed to assert authority outside of Tripoli while Haftar’s forces this month scored a major military victory when they seized Benghazi, Libya’s second city.

The pair reached agreement on a new peace initiative during talks hosted last month by French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the 10-point joint declaration, Sarraj and Haftar agreed to work on a roadmap for security and defense, unifying national institutions such as the National Oil Corporation and the central bank, and hold elections as soon as possible.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army is backed by Russia, Egypt and the UAE and recently liberated Benghazi after a three-year campaign against ultra-hardline groups.