Forces loyal to Libyan eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said they killed 16 Turkish soldiers, a day after Turkey acknowledged it lost “martyrs” in combat in the north African country.
Khalid al-Mahjoub, a spokesman for Haftar’s self-styled Libya National Army (LNA), said the Turks were killed in the port city Misrata, in battles in Tripoli and in the town al-Falah south of the capital.
Turkey backs Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and sent Syrian soldiers with own soldiers and weapons to help the Tripoli-based administration repel an attempt by the LNA to capture the city.
Haftar forces are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and have assistance from Russian mercenaries.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged Turkish losses in Libya’s “struggle”.
“We are there with our soldiers and teams from the Syrian National Army. We continue the struggle. We have several martyrs. In return we neutralised nearly a hundred legionaries,” Erdogan said.
The Syrian National Army, also known as Free Syrian Army, is a Turkey-backed Syrian rebel group fighting pro-Damascus forces in northern Syria, where 16 Turkish soldiers died so far this month.
The deployment of Turkish soldiers and sophisticated air defences erased gains made by the LNA with the help of Russian mercenaries, returning the frontline to where it was at start of Haftar’s campaign in April 2019.
Ceasefire talks resumed last week after the GNA pulled out following shelling of Tripoli port by Haftar forces.