UN says 220 killed in fighting over Libya's capital

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) announced Saturday it had launched a counterattack to push back Haftar's fighters.

The White House statement said Trump recognised Haftar's "significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources", during the conversation on Monday.

For the second Friday running, thousands took part in demonstrations in Tripoli and Misrata against Khalifa Hafter and his Libyan National Army (LNA) for their attack on Tripoli.

GNA's military spokesman Colonel Mohammad Gnounou said at least seven airstrikes had been carried out earlier in the day against military positions held by forces loyal to Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

Libya has been mired in chaos since the Nato-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Qadhafi in 2011.

Until recently, the Trump administration had distanced itself from the United Nations push for the national reconciliation between the internationally-recognized administration of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar, exercising a more limited role that primarily focuses on fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda, and other jihadis.

Reuters cited Tripoli residents as saying late Saturday that they had seen and heard aircraft opening fire and launching missile strikes on the capital city.

Both countries flew air strikes on Tripoli in 2014 during a different conflict to help a Haftar-allied force, US officials said at the time.

For years now, Libya has been split between the Tripoli-based GNA in the west and a rival administration in the east allied to Haftar.

In terms of global backing, Mr Haftar enjoys the support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and - now, clearly - the United States. On Thursday, both the United States and Russian Federation said they could not support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a Libya ceasefire at this time.

The fighting has killed 205 people, including 18 civilians, and wounded 913 since the start of the campaign, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Despite some military setbacks, Mr Haftar maintains that he "can prevail", according to several others.

The warring sides have traded accusations of targeting civilians.

While the U.S. government has primarily backed the GNA which is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, American diplomats and military officers have maintained contacts with Russian Federation backed Haftar.

Earlier this month, Germany called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as a result of the escalation in violence.

In recent weeks, Libya has reached out to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for assistance in strengthening the country's security institutions in an effort to end the power struggle between competing governments and militias.

  • Jon Douglas