Forces led by a controversial Libyan military chief yesterday advanced towards Tripoli as UN chief Antonio Guterres warned of the growing risk of violence.
The self-proclaimed Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar announced Wednesday it was gearing up to move on the west of the country including the capital, home to a UN-backed unity government.
Spokesman Ahmed Mesmari said preparations were almost complete "to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries".
Haftar yesterday ordered his troops to "advance" on the capital Tripoli through audio message.
His statement was followed by troop movements on the ground, local and military sources said, as a convoy of LNA vehicles approached the city of Gharyan, some 100 kilometres (60 miles), from Tripoli.
Commander Abdessalem Al-Hassi yesterday told AFP that his forces had entered into the city without fighting.
But at least four sources in the city denied this, and a local official said there were "ongoing efforts to avoid a confrontation" between rival fighters who divide the city.
Dozens of militias have fought for control of the North African country since a Nato-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Haftar's forces oppose the government in Tripoli and backing a parallel administration in the east.
Unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj condemned Haftar's "escalation" and said he had ordered loyalist forces to prepare to "face all threats".
Powerful armed groups from Libya's western city of Misrata, which back Sarraj, said they "stand ready... to stop the cursed advance".