UAE’s military base in east Libya is shared with French troops to support Haftar

Airbus Defence and Space imagery dated 23 July 2016 showing UAE air activity at Al-Khadim Airport in Libya. Air operations are conducted from a bermed compound established between March and June 2016. (CNES 2016, Distribution Airbus DS / 2016 IHS)
Airbus Defence and Space imagery dated 23 July 2016 showing UAE air activity at Al-Khadim Airport in Libya. Air operations are conducted from a bermed compound established between March and June 2016. (CNES 2016, Distribution Airbus DS / 2016 IHS)

The United Arab Emirates has got a military base in eastern Libyan city of Marj, where Khalifa Haftar’s Dignity Operation is located, in order to provide military support for Haftar’s forces, The New Arab has reported.

The military base is located south of the city of al-Marj on the site of an old airstrip in a region known as Al-Sulaiyah, a Libyan military official formerly affiliated to Haftar has confirmed to The New Arab.

The London-based website added that the source indicated that Haftar’s Emirati allies want to have their own military presence in the east – in Marj – in order to provide unlimited support for Haftar’s forces in their war on Benghazi Shura Council fighters.

“Previously, Emirati jet fighters backing Haftar took off from bases in western Egypt, but following negotiations earlier this year by the UAE and France with Haftar, he gave them an agricultural airstrip” for their operations, he told The New Arab.

He explained to the New Arab that the airbase equipment started arriving since February, 2016.

“It arrived along with medical and humanitarian aid sent by the UAE, the source claimed, with the bulk of the planes being repurposed US-made C130 planes landing in the airstrip according to the source. The Emirati Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes have been converted to carry munitions and bombs and were later joined by French Mirage-5 planes.” The source added.

The source said the three UAE planes are used for reconnaissance sorties and light combat missions, and are piloted by Pakistani pilots.

He also told the New Arab that the French jets are used in bombing runs in support of Haftar’s forces, most recently in operations between Ajdabiya and Benghazi.

According to the New Arab, the Emirati base is off limits to Libyan officers, except for Haftar’s close associates, the source further claimed, saying Egyptian and foreign officers have been spotted at the airbase which seems to have been established under the supervision of Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan in collaboration with French officials.

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