On Monday the six Turkish citizens detained on Sunday in Libya by commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces were released after the Turkish government warned the militia would become a “legitimate target” unless Turks were immediately released.
A Reuters news report said late on Monday, quoting Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Since the assassination and deposing of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s dictator for four decades, the country has been in unrest since 2011. The country is split between the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the Libyan capital Tripoli, led by Fayez al Sarraj against the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey backs the GNA government, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) support the LNA forces. The LNA launched a campaign in April to seize Tripoli but suffered setbacks since then against the GNA government forces.
The Turkish foreign ministry announced the released Turks wanted to continue working in Libya, instead of returning to the country. Turkey’s defense ministry said the detainees did not include military personnel, denying foreign news reports, according to Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency (AA).
The Haftar administration cut all ties with Ankara on Friday and banned flights and ships from eastern Libya. Further, on Sunday, Haftar’s LNA said they destroyed a Turkish drone parked at the capital’s only active airport and declared a “general mobilization” as friction between Ankara and aroused.
The LNA has repeatedly accused Ankara of arming Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist groups fighting for the GNA government in Tripoli. In May, the United States declared it was about to designate the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
The debate to declare the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, a terrorist organization has been underway since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
If declared, the Brotherhood and consequently its allies will be subjected to US sanctions. The Brotherhood has links with some Muslim organizations and countries, including Turkey. Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been hosting many of the group’s members who had to flee to Turkey after it was designated as a terrorist organization in 2013 in Egypt. Ankara sees the Brotherhood as an entirely peaceful organization.