Libyan Warplanes Target Forces of Renegade Commander on Tripoli’s Outskirts by Sudarsan Raghavan – Washington Post
Fighter jets for Libya’s U.N.-backed government targeted forces of a renegade commander Saturday in attempts to stop his advance on the Libyan capital in a showdown that threatened to spill into bloody urban combat.
Human rights activists warned that civilians could be caught in the middle if the fighting escalates for control of Tripoli.
The warplanes bombed positions of Gen. Khalifa Hifter self-described Libyan National Army south of Tripoli, prompting the warlord to declare that his forces would shoot down any aircraft flying over western Libya, local media reported. Tripoli residents on social media described hearing fighter jets passing over the city.
Hifter’s militia is aligned with a separate administration based in eastern Libya. The country, rich in oil and gas reserves, has been split into rival regions for years as the United Nations and others tried to hammer out a peace deal and set a road map for elections.
Hifter’s offensive could usher in the most significant escalation of violence since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. Hifter was a general in Gaddafi’s army, but defected and spent years living in Northern Virginia. He returned to Libya to take part in the revolution against Gaddafi’s rule…