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The Libyan National Army (LNA) announced Sunday the arrest of an Islamic State leader in Tripoli, consolidating its claim of Turkey’s involvement in bringing terrorists from Syria to fight alongside the Government of National Accord (GNA) fighters in the North African country.
The LNA, which is led by military commander Khalifa Haftar, said in a statement that its forces were able to arrest Mohammed al-Ruwaidani, known as Abu Bakr al-Rowaidani, one of the most dangerous IS elements in Syria, in the fighting in Tripoli.
The statement said that Rowaidani had moved to Libya by the Turkish intelligence, as the Emir of the Levant Legion.
He was arrested while fighting alongside Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s militias, which are led by Turkish military officers.
The LNA said that Rowaidani’s arrest operation was further evidence of the relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and extremist group despite his claim of fighting terrorism.
The LNA has arrested dozens of Syrian mercenaries sent by the Turkish government to fight alongside extremist groups in Libya.
Observers believe that Turkey is seeking to get rid of the most extremist leaders by removing them from Syria and sending them to fight in the battle for Tripoli alongside the GNA forces.
Erdogan publicly admitted the Turkish military intervention in Libya and the sending of thousands of mercenaries to fight Haftar’s forces, drawing an international criticism, including its violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya.
The International Crisis Group reported last month that Turkey had reportedly sent around 100 officers as well as aerial defence and other weapon systems since last January.
“As Ankara’s allies in Tripoli attempt counterattacks against pro-Haftar strongholds in other parts of the country, Turkey risks being dragged into a war well beyond what it originally signed up for,” said the Crisis Group.
“Further escalation is a distinct risk and could both backfire for Turkey and come at the expense of Libyans at large,” it added.
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