On July 15, AFRICOM released a statement, along with photographs, that it said were of these mines, IEDs, and other traps. “These weapons are assessed to have been introduced into Libya by the Wagner Group,” the press release noted, based on their Russian markings, which were painted over the conceal them. These munitions had been recovered in various areas between Tripoli and the strategic city of Sirte, which is situated to the east along Libya’s central coastline. Sirte is now a major focal point for continued fighting between the GNA and LNA.
“The Russian-state sponsored Wagner Group is demonstrating a total disregard for the safety and security of Libyans,” U.S. Marine Corps Major General Bradford Gering, AFRICOM’s Director of Operations, said in a statement. “The Wagner Group’s irresponsible tactics are prolonging conflict and are responsible for the needless suffering and the deaths of innocent civilians. Russia has the power to stop them, just not the will.”
It’s worth noting that Libya is presently under an international arms embargo, which the LNA’s benefactors, as well as Turkey, have been openly flouting for some time now. Turkish authorities have notably been defiant even in the face of pressure from their NATO allies in Europe, some of whom are part of a European Union-led maritime effort to try and stem illicit smuggling of oil, as well as human trafficking, in and out of Libya.
French authorities have said that Turkish warships painted a French Navy corvette with their fire control radars when the latter attempted to stop, board, and inspect a cargo ship apparently carrying arms to Libya in June. French President Emmanuel Macron has since decried Turkey’s involvement in the North African country’s civil war as “criminal.”
“NATO allies shouldn’t be turning fire control radars on each other. That’s not good,” U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters on July 15 while in Paris on an official visit. “We are very sympathetic to the French concerns… We’re taking it very seriously.”
There are no indications that foreign involvement on both sides of Libya’s civil war will be declining any time soon and there is now the potential for further escalation, as well. Authorities in Egypt, which has, so far, had more limited direct involvement in the fighting have threatened multiple times in recent weeks to intervene on behalf of the LNA in response to Turkey’s deepening support of the GNA.
“Egypt is able to change the military situation quickly and decisively if it wants,” Egyptian Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said during a meeting with Libyan tribal leaders aligned with Haftar in Cairo on July 16, 2020. They had told the Egyptian leader that he had their approval to launch an overt military intervention into the eastern portion of the country. It is worth noting that el-Sisi, whose government is now also in the midst of a maritime boundary dispute with Turkey, also called for all sides to stop the fighting.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, which included discussions about Libya. Despite being firmly on different sides of the conflict, Erdogan and Putin have been trying to get the GNA and the LNA to agree to at least a ceasefire, which, if it were to hold, could lead to a de facto partitioning of the country.
In the meantime, the fighting in the country remains unabated, with increasing airpower, air defenses, and other newly supplied weaponry in the mix on both sides.
Contact the author: Joe@thedrive.com