Explained: Escalation in Libyan crisis and why India pulled out its CRPF contingent from Tripolihttps://indianexpress.com/article/world/libya-tripoli-unrest-emergency-services-indians-sushma-swaraj-khalifa-hifter-moammar-gadhafi-fayez-al-sarraj-5663802/

Explained: Escalation in Libyan crisis and why India pulled out its CRPF contingent from Tripoli

Amid the ongoing crisis, the United States on Sunday announced to temporarily withdraw some of its forces from the conflict zone due to "security conditions on the ground".

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Libyan National Army members, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, head out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi. (Reuters)

In what is seen as a major escalation in the Libyan crisis, at least 23 civilians have been killed and several others have been injured in Tripoli, the capital city, ever since self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise offensive last week, news agency AP reported.

On Sunday, fighting was underway at the international airport, some 24 kilometers (15 miles) from central Tripoli, after Hifter claimed to have seized the area. Hifter said his forces had launched airstrikes targeting rival militias on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said an entire contingent of CRPF personnel were evacuated from the region as the situation in Tripoli has worsened.

Here is everything you need to know about the political crisis in Libya:

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Brief history

Libya has been gripped by unrest since the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and in recent years has been governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various armed groups.

In Libya, there is a UN-backed internationally recognised government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Latest events

According to reports, Hafter on Thursday had ordered his forces to take over Tripoli, triggering an escalation in political tension in the country. Sarraj — in a televised interview on Saturday — said his government had offered concessions to Hafter “to avoid bloodshed and to end divisions”. “We were stabbed in the back,” he said, adding that his forces would confront Hafter’s troops with “force and determination.”

On Sunday, following Hifter’s strike at the airport, rival militias, which are affiliated with the government, said they had also carried out airstrikes, slowing the Army’s advance.

Dozens of armed vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns gathered in Tajura, in the suburbs east of the capital. The residents of Tripoli have expressed concern that large-scale fighting could break out and have begun stocking up on food and petrol, according to a report by AFP.

US pulls forces from Libya amid fighting near capital

Amid the ongoing crisis, the United States on Sunday announced to temporarily withdraw some of its forces from the conflict zone due to “security conditions on the ground”.

A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years, helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities.

“The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable,” Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, was quoted as saying by Associated Press. “Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing US strategy.”

Waldhauser, however, did not provide details on the number of US troops that have been withdrawn or on how many remain inside the country.

CRPF contingent evacuated from Tripoli: Sushma Swaraj

Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said an entire contingent of CRPF personnel were evacuated from the region as the situation in Tripoli has worsened.

Swaraj mentioned that the evacuation was carried out by the Indian Embassy in Tunisia and appreciated the ‘excellent work’ done by them. Clashes between the rebel and pro-government forces have been reported from several parts of Tripoli.

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“Indian Embassy in Tunisia has evacuated the entire contingent of 15 CRPF personnel yesterday itself. I appreciate the excellent work by the Indian Embassy in Tunisia. #Libya,” she tweeted.