Libya strongman Haftar agrees to Ramadan ceasefire

Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar said on Wednesday that his forces would end hostilities for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following international calls for a truce in this war-torn country.

“The commander-in-chief announces the end of his military operations on his side,” said a spokesman for Haftar, who controls parts of eastern and southern Libya, from the city of Benghazi in is from the country.

Haftar’s rival, the UN-recognized National Accord Government (GNA), has yet to respond, and an AFP correspondent reported hearing explosions in the center of the capital Tripoli after the ad.

The call for a truce during Ramadan, which began in Libya on April 24, came in response to “calls from friendly nations,” said Haftar spokesman.

He warned that the violations committed by the GNA would lead to an “immediate and severe response”.

Last week, the UN, the EU and several countries called on the two sides to lay down their arms during the holy month.

The announcement comes after military setbacks

The announcement comes after pro-Haftar forces have suffered a series of setbacks in recent weeks, as GNA forces ousted them from two key coastal towns west of Tripoli.

Supported by Turkey, GNA troops now surround Haftar’s main rear base in Tarhunah, 60 kilometers (39 miles) southeast of the capital.

Since the launch of an offensive to seize Tripoli last April, several ceasefires between Haftar’s forces and the GNA have passed, the two sides accusing each other of violations.

Opponents of Haftar accuse him of wanting to establish a new military dictatorship in the country.

On Monday, he said he had “a popular mandate” to govern, declaring the conclusion of a key political agreement for 2015 and promising to continue his attack to seize Tripoli.

The oil-rich North African nation has been in chaos since the ouster and murder of longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011.