By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 10 March 2017:
A top Libyan general has called for the UN to impose a no-fly zone over the oil crescent as Khalifa Hafter’s air force threatens to batter the region. With Hafter’s troops reportedly starting their offensive to recapture the central oil terminals, a no-fly zone was critical, General Suleiman Al-Obeidi has said in a radio interview.
The former National Transitional Council military commander also claimed Hafter had recruited 500 “mercenaries” from his Furjan tribe to support the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the attack.
When the LNA took the oil terminals last September, it was supported by 7,000 fighters from the Sudanese rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Obeidi claimed.
General Obeidi, who joined the revolution in February 2011 along with his forces in Tobruk and was appointed the NTC’s interim chief of staff after the assassination of Major-General Abdul Fatah Younis in July 2011, has been opposed to both Hafter and Libya’s Islamists for some considerable time. In October 2014, he said he was ready to lead an attack on Derna to wrest it from Ansar Al-Sharia. But his opposition to Hafter resulted in the offer being rejected by the LNA.
Both Chadian and Sudanese fighters were widely reported to have been involved in the LNA’s September takeover of the oil basin. A senior JEM commander recently confirmed to Sudanese media that some of his troops had supported the LNA when the oil terminals were taken.
The mainly Darfuri JEM has, however, been active in south east Libya since the 2011 revolution, when they were employed by Qaddafi. Since then they have acted as freelance mercenaries in the region.