Six Turks detained in Libya by forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar have been released, Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said a day after it warned the militia would become a “legitimate target” unless they were released immediately.
Turkey supports the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. Haftar’s Libyan National Force (LNA) launched a campaign on April 4 to seize the Libyan capital, but has been pushed back by Tripoli government forces.
The foreign ministry spokesman said those released wanted to work rather than return to Turkey. State-owned Anadolu agency said they were sailors after Turkey’s defence ministry denied reports the detainees included military personnel.
Forces loyal to Haftar said they destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Tripoli’s only working airport on Sunday and declared a “general mobilisation” as tensions between Ankara and the eastern administration mounted.
Haftar and his backers say they are trying to free Tripoli from militias that they accuse of destabilising Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. His administration cut all ties with Turkey last Friday, banning its flights and ships from eastern Libya.