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Wounded Libyan fighters flown to Russia as Haftar ties grow

By AFP - Feb 02,2017 - Last updated at Feb 02,2017

BENGHAZI, Libya — Dozens of fighters commanded by a controversial Libyan military strongman were flown this week to Russia for medical treatment, a spokesman said Thursday, in the latest sign of Moscow's growing support for his forces.

Around 70 members of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army were evacuated on Tuesday aboard Russian planes, LNA spokesman Mohamad Ghanim told AFP. 

He said Russia has agreed to provide care for up to 500 wounded fighters, or more "as needed".

Emboldened by its military success in Syria, analysts believe Russia is increasingly turning its eyes to chaos-ridden Libya with support for Haftar, whose forces oppose Tripoli's internationally backed government.

Chaos in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed ousting of Muammar Qadhafi has seen rival parliaments and governments vying for control of territory, and militants including the Daesh terror group have taken advantage to gain ground. 

Pro-Haftar fighters have been battling militants around Libya's second city Benghazi, 100 kilometres east of Tripoli.

Russia has been cultivating Haftar as an ally, with the military chief making several visits to Moscow last year. In January, he met Russian officers and spoke via video link to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu while aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier off the Libya coast.

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