Turkey's foreign ministry confirmed the release of six Turkish sailors detained by militia leader Khalifa Haftar's eastern Libyan forces.

A picture taken on June 28, 2019 shows a burnt vehicle belonging to forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in Gharyan, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south-west of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
A picture taken on June 28, 2019 shows a burnt vehicle belonging to forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in Gharyan, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south-west of the Libyan capital Tripoli. (AFP Archive)

Six Turkish citizens detained in Libya by forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar have been released, the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday.

The foreign ministry said on Sunday that the eastern Libyan militia would become a "legitimate target" if the detainees were not released immediately.

Turkey supports the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli.

Holding six Turkish citizens in Libya by illegal militia loyal to Haftar is an act of banditry and piracy, the foreign ministry said in a statement earlier.

TRT World 's Ali Mustafa brings more from Turkey's capital Ankara.

'Severe consequences'

Turkey is committed to protecting the safety and rights of its citizens world over, Vice President Fuat Oktay said early Monday. 

Oktay warned of severe consequences if citizens detained by Haftar's militants are not released. 

"If our citizens are not released immediately, those responsible will become a legitimate target and the consequences will be severe," Oktay said.  

He added that all related institutions continue making efforts to bring back the citizens to Turkey. 

Earlier on Sunday, Turkish defence minister said Ankara has taken all measures against possible hostile moves or threats.

"The price of hostile attitudes or attacks will be heavy, they will be responded with the most efficient and hard manner," Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency in Osaka, Japan, where he was part of Turkish president’s delegation in G20 Leaders’ Summit.

Akar said that Turkey focused on Libya's territorial integrity, sovereignty and the national consensus spirit in the country, however, it would not turn a blind eye towards threats.

The minister of national defence emphasised that Turkey would always be part of peace and stability efforts in line with the international law to resolve disputes between conflicting elements of Libya.

Haftar's threats to Turkish installations

Earlier on Friday, Haftar's spokesman Ahmed Al Mismari announced a ban on commercial flights from Libya to Turkey and ordered his militia to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country.

Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord on Wednesday recaptured the strategic city of Gharyan, south of Tripoli, from Haftar's militia in a major loss for the renegade commander. 

Haftar's militia has so far been unsuccessful in seeking to capture Tripoli from the Government of National Accord in an offensive that began in April.

Nevertheless, his forces remain deployed in several areas around the capital.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011 when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-serving president Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power — one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli — and a host of heavily armed militia groups.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies