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Libya unity govt says Russian mercenaries evacuating

Libya unity govt says Russian mercenaries evacuating

AFP
Tripoli
Forces backing Libya’s UN-recognised government said Monday that hundreds of Russian mercenaries fighting for rival military commander Khalifa Haftar had been evacuated from combat zones south of the capital Tripoli.
The claim comes after a series of setbacks for Haftar’s year-long offensive to seize the capital from the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.
“An Antonov 32 military cargo plane landed at Bani Walid airport to resume the evacuation of Wagner (Group) mercenaries who had fled southern Tripoli, to an as-yet unconfirmed destination,” pro-GNA forces wrote on Twitter.
There was no immediate response by Haftar’s forces to the GNA’s claims on Monday.
Several countries including Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have been accused of involvement in the battle between the GNA and Haftar’s forces.
Last month, in a report sent to the Security Council, United Nations experts corroborated US media reports that the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian paramilitary organisation seen as close to President Vladimir Putin, had sent fighters to back Haftar.
The Kremlin has always denied involvement.
Pro-GNA forces, with growing support from Turkey, have chalked up a series of victories in recent weeks largely thanks to their air superiority.
They said Saturday they had seized three barracks south of the capital.
Turkey has acknowledged sending fighters to support the GNA in Libya, but has not specified how many.
Pro-GNA forces said Monday some “1,500 to 1,600 mercenaries” had fled from the frontlines in Tripoli to Bani Walid, around 145 kilometres southeast of the capital.
They said the previous day seven cargo planes had landed at the town’s airport, bringing in munitions and weaponry and evacuating the fleeing fighters.
A video broadcast on the Tripoli-based Libya al-Ahrar television channel showed armed men boarding an Antonov 23-type military cargo plane.

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