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Libya expels Sudanese diplomat over allegations of supporting militias

September 6, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Libyan government ordered the Sudanese military attaché to leave the country, amid accusations by Tripoli about the involvement of Khartoum in supporting some of the Libyan warring factions.

Smoke rises following an air strike in Libya's eastern coastal city of Benghazi on September 1, 2014 (AFP Photo/Abdullah Doma)A statement by the Libyan government on Saturday night claimed that a Sudanese military transport plane bound for Tripoli airport, that is currently under the control of an Islamist armed group, entered its airspace.

It noted that this action by Sudan violates Libya’s sovereignty and constitutes an interference in its affairs, adding that they formally informed the Sudanese military attaché that he is persona non grata.

"We, the Libyan government, firmly denounce that a Sudanese military plane has penetrated the Libyan airspace without an official permit from the Libyan government. The plane was carrying ammunition which had not been officially approved by the Libyan government," the statement said.

The move came hours after the Sudanese army spokesperson Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad denied providing any military support to any Libyan militias.

Furthermore, the head of the military council in the Libyan city of Kufra Hamid Suleiman, who is also the commander of the joint Sudanese-Libyan border forces, denied that a Sudanese plane carrying weapons landed at the Mitiga airbase.

The Libyan news agency quoted Suleiman as saying that the shipment contained “military and logistical supplies to the joint force from the national army, which he chairs that is tasked with stationing at al-Owaynat and al-Sara points”.

He stressed that the shipment was unloaded in front of some military officers, chieftains, dignitaries and commanders of battalions in Kufra to refute any “rumours”.

Col. Sa’ad affirmed Sudan’s firm position of non-interference in Libya’s internal affairs and echoed Suleiman’s statement on the contents of the plane. He added that the radio exchange between the aircraft’s pilot and the airport’s control towers confirms the real mission of the plane which landed in al-Kufra.

Colonel Mohammed Hejazi, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army that is loyal to retired Libyan general Khalifa Heftar, said that investigations are underway on the landing of an aircraft loaded with weapons coming from Sudan at Mitiga airbase.

"This is not the first time, but the recent incident is in the process of being investigated and scrutinized. There is an intelligence war that emerged from under the cloak of Muslim Brotherhood," he told Sky News Arabia TV on Saturday.

He added that intelligence bodies in states that are supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood were involved with funding arms shipments which coincided with news that Khartoum received Nouri Abusahmain, president of the previous session of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) which was dominated by Islamists and is challenging the legitimacy of the elected parliament.

The London-based Al-Arab al-Youm newspaper quoted the commander of the air force in the pro-Heftar Libyan National Army, Brigadier Saqr Jeroshi as warning against a “hellish” scheme in which Sudan provides personnel and weapons, aimed at empowering the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied the Jihadist militias to control the eastern city of Benghazi.

"This scheme approached its final stages, where the Muslim Brotherhood has stepped up its actions in support of its militias that are armed with personnel and ammunitions from Sudan," benefiting from close ties with the Sudanese government, which he described as a Muslim Brotherhood one.

He added that the army confirmed information that a Muslim Brotherhood figure by the name Ahmed Al-Zuway, who has a tribal links in Sudan, is overseeing the process of bringing in arms and personnel from Sudan to Kufra in cars and trucks.

“The process of the transfer of arms and personnel from Sudan to Libya has taken in the last period a remarkable development, as planes were observed in the skies of the Sahara, coming from Sudan, in an effort to overthrow the city of Benghazi, to which hundreds of extremist groups from Misrata and Derna are flowing, in an effort to control it in favour of extremist groups."

The GNC refused to stand down at the end of its term earlier this year and extended it and extended its mandate another year which prompted General Heftar to call for its dissolution and forming an interim government to oversee new elections.

Last May, pro-Heftar forces launched a major offensive against Islamist militias dubbed as ‘Operation Dignity’.

Libya’s government and elected House of Representatives last month relocated to the remote eastern city of Tobruk after an armed group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli and most government institutions.

Those now in control of Tripoli have set up a rival parliament and government that have not been recognized by the international community.

Libya has been plagued by political infighting, with government and parliament unable to control militias that have continued to defy state authority since ousting Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

It is widely viewed that Qatar, Turkey and Sudan are backing Islamist militias while countries like Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE) are backing Heftar.

Last month, the United States said that UAE and Egypt secretly bombed Islamist militia in Libya.

Sudan has vehemently denied accusations in recent months of backing any side in the Libyan conflict.

(ST)