At least 20 operatives from Australia, France, Malta, South Africa, Britain and the United States had travelled to Libya to support warlord Khalif Haftar and hit Turkish shipments to Tripoli-based UN-backed government, a new report says.
UN investigators have exposed a secret mission involving members of privately-owned military companies who had travelled to Libya to support warlord Khalifa Haftar and apparently block Turkish supply ships from reaching capital Tripoli, Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah has reported.
Citing "a confidential UN report" which it said was seen by German news agency DPA, it said an "unmasked" secret mission of private western forces in Libya had at least 20 operatives from Australia, France, Malta, South Africa, Britain and the United States.
They "were reportedly involved in the so-called 'project Opus' mission in support of putschist commander [warlord] Khalifa Haftar", the Turkish newspaper reported.
The mercenaries travelled to Libya via a cargo plane in Jordan at the end of June 2019 and were travelling on behalf of the scientific community to carry out "geophysical and hyperspectral investigations" in Libya on behalf of Jordan.
"But the UN report calls this a 'cover-up story'."
"The private army members were allegedly supposed to stop Turkish supply ships on their way to the coastal capital city Tripoli, and intercept arms supplies meant for internationally recognised government forces, according to the report," Daily Sabah said.
Libya's UN-recognised government, which has been under attack by Haftar's militia since April 2019, launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital Tripoli and other parts of northwest Libya.
Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya's government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political agreement.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said more than 2,000 Russian Wagner mercenaries were fighting in the war-ravaged country.
The UN report said the planning of the secret mission was mainly carried out by companies based in UAE who were identified as "Lancaster6" and "Opus Capital Asset"
Six military helicopters were obtained in South Africa in mid-June 2019 and then flown to Benghazi in Libya, a Haftar stronghold, the report said.
Simultaneously, in Malta, "Opus Capital Asset" rented two military inflatable boats to be equipped with a machine gun and were then taken to Benghazi on June 27.
However, the alleged secret mission was aborted for unknown reasons after only a few days.
Haftar supporters 'on wrong side of history'
Meanwhile, Turkey's presidential spokesman said on Monday countries like France that are supporting self-styled general Haftar in Libya are at the wrong side of history,
In a live interview with France 24 channel, Ibrahim Kalin said: "We believe that anyone who is still supporting Haftar is on the wrong side in the Libyan conflict."
He noted that Haftar's supporters should realise he is not a reliable partner in Libya.
"Turkey sent some advisors to help them [Libyan government] to bring a degree of balance to the conflict," he added.
He reiterated the need for a political solution in Libya, which Libyan government head Fayez al Sarraj has also called for.