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LIBYA: Protest in Benghazi over growing Turkish influence

Thousands demonstrated in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday against what they claim is Turkish interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Turkey has sent mercenaries and weapons to the country’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli.

The protesters carried banners bearing pictures and slogans attacking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Libyan ally Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the U.N.-backed government.

“We are against the Turkish conquest, and against the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and, God willing, we will be victorious, thanks to the vigor of our youth, may God preserve them and protect them,” said a protester, Mona Al-Farsi.

They also carried signs in support of the east-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) and its leadership.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

The country has been divided between two rival governments since 2015 – one in the east, allied with Gen. Khalifa Hafter, and the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli.

Hafter’s forces are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia, while the Tripoli-allied militias are aided by Qatar, Italy, and Turkey.

Many of these foreign backers are apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya’s oil resources, the largest in Africa.

The Benghazi City Security Directorate said in a statement that security and military agencies were doing their utmost to protect the demonstrators.

Medics handed out face masks at the entrance to the protest site, to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Also Sunday, Tripoli-based officials said that overnight airstrikes had hit a key military base on the city’s outskirts that was recently retaken by Turkey-backed forces.

A spokesman for the Tripoli-based forces, Col. Mohamed Gnounou, said the strikes were carried out by “foreign jets” allied with military commander Haftar.

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