The New Arab
The UAE maintains a military base that supports operations of Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, a Libyan military official formerly affiliated to the general has confirmed to The New Arab.
The UAE now maintains a military base that supports the operations of Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, a Libyan military official formerly affiliated to the general has confirmed to The New Arab’s Arabic edition.
The base is located south of the city of al-Marj on the site of an old airstrip in a region known as al-Sulaiyah, he added.
The source said Haftar’s Emirati allies want to maintain a presence on Libyan territory in order to act in support of his military operations, and to protect his main base in al-Marj.
“Previously, Emirati jet fighters backing Haftar took off from bases in western Egypt, but following negotiations earlier this year by the UAE and France with Haftar, he gave them an agricultural airstrip” for their operations, he added.
The airbase equipment began arriving since February along with medical and humanitarian aid sent by the UAE, the source claimed, with the bulk of the planes being repurposed US-made C130 planes landing in the airstrip according to the source.
The Emirati Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes have been converted to carry munitions and bombs, he explained, and were later joined by French Mirage-5 planes.
The source said the UAE planes, which number three, are used for reconnaissance sorties and light combat missions, and are piloted by Pakistani pilots. This is while the French jets are used in bombing runs in support of Haftar’s forces, most recently in operations between Ajdabiya and Benghazi.
The facility stores guided bombs that include the 225-kg GBU-12 and AS-235 ecureuil, the source said.
It is off limits to Libyan officers, except for Haftar’s close associates, the source further claimed, saying Egyptian and foreign officers have been spotted at the airbase which seems to have been established under the supervision of Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan in collaboration with French officials, always according to the source.
The New Arab cannot verify the claims but last week, defence publication IHS Jane’s revealed the United Arab Emirates established a military base in eastern Libya near al-Marj, “from where it is operating light attack aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), based on space satellite imagery obtained by the magazine.
Following an uprising in 2011, the regime of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown with the assistance of NATO.
Since then, the country descended to civil war with rival governments emerging in the capital Tripoli, in opposition to a rival parliament in Tobruk in the east.
A UN-backed government was then set up this year, which won the support of Tripoli, but not Tobruk, which counts on Khalifa Haftar for military support.
Haftar and Tobruk have received backing from neighbouring Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Fellow Gulf state Qatar backs Tripoli.
Islamic State has taken advantage of the chaos to set up a foothold in parts of the country.