Libya Strongman Plans to Press Tripoli 'Jihad' Despite UN Plea

(Bloomberg) -- Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar urged his troops to continue their offensive to capture the capital Tripoli, ignoring a plea by the United Nations for a cease-fire coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Haftar’s attempt to take the capital and overthrow the UN-backed government in Tripoli has ground to a halt on the outskirts of the city, where militias who oppose the eastern-based strongman have put up stiff resistance.

Libya Strongman Plans to Press Tripoli 'Jihad' Despite UN Plea

The UN mission in Libya had called on Sunday for a humanitarian cease-fire to halt the month-long clashes that have killed more than 300 people.

But in a statement read by his spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari on the Libyan Al-Hadath television station, Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to pursue the offensive. 

“Ramadan is the month of jihad,” Haftar said, according to Mismari. “Our battles against terrorism in Benghazi and Derna didn’t stop in Ramadan in the past,” he said of eastern cities his forces had captured in 2017 and 2018. Ramadan starts on Monday in Libya.

Haftar urged his forces to maintain discipline and pursue their retreating enemies.

Libya Strongman Plans to Press Tripoli 'Jihad' Despite UN Plea

The strongman who had captured the east and south of the divided OPEC state before setting his sights on the capital has been supported by the U.A.E., Egypt and Saudi Arabia. U.S President Donald Trump had also indicated his support in a phone call to Haftar last month, U.S officials said.

Other countries have condemned the offensive, which upended a planned UN-sponsored conference meant to lay the ground for elections.

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