Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says two Turkish troopers have been killed in Libya, despite an earlier assertion that Ankara had withheld the dispatch of forces to the North African country in an attempt to give peace a chance.
Erdogan announced the toll at a news conference on Tuesday, calling the dead troopers “martyrs” without elaborating.
The Turkish president had said over the weekend that Turkey had suffered “a couple of” casualties in Libya, sparking criticism for not providing a precise number.
Libya’s internationally recognized government, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has previously sought Turkey’s support against rebels under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who have been fighting to seize the capital, Tripoli, and who receive support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Ankara approved the dispatch of troopers to Libya in a declared bid to protect the Libyan government, but following a multinational peace summit in Germany, Erdogan said Turkey would not deploy the forces so as to facilitate a ceasefire that the summit was held to promote.
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between the Tripoli-based government and a camp in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebel forces.
Turkey has also transferred allied Syrian militants to Libya.