Forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken control of the Al Watiya airbase, 140 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Tripoli, from warlord Khalifa Haftar's militias in May.

Unidentified warplanes carried out airstrikes on Al-Watiya airbase west of the capital Tripoli on Sunday.
Unidentified warplanes carried out airstrikes on Al-Watiya airbase west of the capital Tripoli on Sunday. (AA)

Libya's UN-recognised government has condemned overnight air raids against a strategic air base that they recently took control of in the country's west, saying the blitz was carried out by a "foreign air force".

Forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) had taken control of the Al Watiya airbase, 140 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Tripoli, from militias loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar in May.

"The raids last night against Al Watiya base were carried out by a... foreign air force in support of the war criminal in a miserable and desperate attempt to achieve a morale boosting victory" for Haftar's forces, GNA deputy defence minister Salah Namrush said in a statement.

A "response, in the right place and at the right time" will serve as a future deterrent for such acts, Namrush added, without specifying which foreign air force was suspected to be behind the raid.

A Turkish military source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday that the airbase was struck by unidentified planes.
No casualties were reported following the incident, but some equipment recently brought to boost the airbase’s air-defense capabilities was damaged.

Warlord Haftar is backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

His fighters withdrew from the southern outskirts of Tripoli and the entire west of the country in June after a string of battle field defeats to the GNA.

Some analysts suspect France is backing Haftar alongside Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but Paris insists it is neutral in the conflict.

READ MORE: Exclusive: The UAE is lobbying to pit the US against Turkey in Libya

In turmoil since 2011

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

The country's new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by warlord Khalifa Haftar's militias.

The UN recognises the Libyan government headed by Fayez al Sarraj as the country's legitimate authority, as Tripoli has battled Haftar's militias since April 2019, a conflict that has taken over 1,000 lives.

In March, the Libyan government launched Operation Peace Storm to counter attacks on the capital and recently retook strategic locations, including Al Watiya airbase and the strategic city of Tarhuna.

READ MORE: UN's Guterres tells Haftar there is no military solution to Libyan conflict

Watiya's recapture in May by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli had marked the start of a sudden collapse of the LNA's 14-month assault to seize the capital and its retreat along the coast to the new frontlines.

Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defences and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa's supply lines and troop build-ups.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli for meetings with the GNA on Friday and Saturday and Akar swore to do all that was necessary to help it, a Turkish defence ministry statement said.

Last month, the United States said Russia had sent at least 14 MiG29 and Su-24 warplanes to an LNA base via Syria, where their Russian airforce markings were removed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies