East Libya forces take out Turkish drone

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Forces loyal to eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar destroyed a Turkish drone at Tripoli’s only working airport, temporarily halting civilian flights as tensions between Ankara and the eastern administration escalated.

Haftar forces said they hit the drone during an air strike on Mitiga airport, part of measures meant to punish Turkey for its support of the rival, internationally recognised Libyan government in Tripoli. The airport closed after the strike but later reopened, according to its website.

They said they arrested two Turks in the oil town Ajdabiya.

Turkey’s foreign minister earlier accused Haftar supporters of arresting six Turks and warned the eastern forces would become a “legitimate target” if they were not released immediately.

Haftar’s Libyan National Force (LNA) launched a campaign on April 4 to seize the Libyan capital – but was pushed back by Tripoli government forces supported by Turkey.

Haftar critics including Turkey accuse him of trying to seize power from the legitimate government through force and deepening a conflict between factions based in the east and west of the sprawling North African country.

Haftar’s administration cut all ties with Turkey on Friday  banning its flights and ships from eastern Libya. It upped measures on Sunday declaring Turkish firms, imports and even symbols illegal.

Ankara supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to Tripoli’s Western-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Serraj, while Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) received support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats.