Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival factions based in Tripoli, and in the east [Ayman Al-Sahili/Reuters]

The “liberation” of Sirte and Jufra from Khalifa Haftar’s forces has become “more urgent than ever” for Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) following the deployment of mercenaries in the country, the United Nations-recognised government’s army spokesperson said.

In a statement on Saturday, Muhammad Qanunu said “Sirte was the most dangerous place in Libya after it became a focal point for mercenaries of the Russian Wagner Company”, who he described as “criminal gangs”.

On Saturday, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN called for the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions over the activities of mercenaries and other actors in Libya.