There are still more than 7,000 Russian Wagner mercenaries in Libya, the head of the country's High Council of State said Sunday.
In statements on audio-chat app Clubhouse, Khalid al-Mishri said the Wagner mercenaries are armed with different types of weapons, including warplanes.
"They have 30 jet fighters in Algourbabia military base (in Sirte) and in al-Jufra base," al-Mishri said. "The Russians are looking for a foothold in North Africa and they found that in Libya."
Libya is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24 under a U.N.-sponsored agreement reached by Libyan political rivals during meetings in Tunisia last year.
Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt backed putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) in the conflict. Turkey supported the previous Tripoli-based government, which was recognized by the U.N.
Foreign mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group as well as from Syria, Chad and Sudan have been deployed on the front lines. This week, U.N. human rights investigators linked mercenaries to possible war crimes.
Foreign mercenaries and arms have poured into the country since Haftar launched his offensive, with Russia and the UAE serving as the putschist general's top suppliers. According to the U.N., there are currently 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries left in Libya.
The Russian Wagner Group, which is owned by businessperson Yevgeny Prigozhin, a figure close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is known as one of the main groups that sent mercenaries to fight in Libya.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte at Jufra air base held by Haftar's forces 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Tripoli and further west in al-Watiya.
In June, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that 2,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group had been operating alongside Haftar forces.