TRIPOLI, Libya 

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj called on young members of warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militias Wednesday to lay down their arms.  

Speaking to Libya February TV, al-Sarraj appealed to the country’s tribal and opinion leaders to create an atmosphere dominated by freedom of expression, dialogue and civil state principles. 

He called on young people deceived by Haftar, who he described as a “war criminal,” to surrender to the legitimate government. 

Al-Sarraj also hailed the country’s retaking of Tripoli International Airport. 

He said Haftar’s militias were defeated by the Libyan army and had to withdraw, noting the militias had committed another crime by planting landmines. 

The army announced that civilians in the capital Tripoli had been largely rescued from militias affiliated with Haftar, the leader of illegitimate forces in the east of the country. 

Mustafa al-Majai, a spokesman for the government’s Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation, told Anadolu Agency that they expect the southern part of Tripoli to be fully liberated in the coming hours.

Earlier in the day, the army liberated Tripoli International Airport from the militias.

Government forces completely took control of the airport, which had been under Haftar’s control for a year.

Libya’s internationally recognized government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019.

In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained strategic locations including Al-Watiya airbase in a major blow to Haftar’s forces.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by Haftar’s forces.

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