Tag Archives: Haftar

Forces loyal to rogue general storm Libya’s parliament, demand suspension

Armed men aim their weapons from a vehicle as smoke rises in the background near the General National Congress in Tripoli May 18, 2014.

Armed gunmen loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar attacked Libya’s parliament on Sunday, announcing its suspension. Forces loyal to Haftar claim to be purging the nation of Islamist militias while authorities accuse them of staging a coup.

Two people were killed and 55 others injured in the clashes in Tripoli’s city center following the attack on parliament, Reuters quoted the country’s justice minister, Saleh Mergani, as saying. The minister also called on all parties to put down their weapons and begin dialogue, according to his televised news conference.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the health ministry said up to 66 people were wounded in the fighting.

A Libyan colonel loyal to Haftar denied the move was a coup and stated that parliament has no legitimacy and should hand over power to the 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.

“We, members of the army and revolutionaries (former rebels), announce the suspension of the General National Congress,” Mokhtar Fernana said in a statement broadcast on two private TV channels, according to AFP.

The justice minister condemned the attack on parliament, as well as the claim that parliament’s operations had been suspended. Marghani said that Libya “condemns expression of political opinion with armed force,” adding that Haftar’s Sunday attack was not connected to his Friday assaults in Benghazi.

Details of the Sunday attack are unclear, but Haftar’s spokesman said the general’s forces were responsible, adding that the assault was part of their ‘Dignity of Libya’ campaign to rid the country of all Islamist militants.

“These are members of the Libyan National Army,” Mohamed al-Hejazi said. The Libyan National Army is the name of the irregular forces loyal to Haftar.

The Libyan National Army also rejected recently appointed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday, according to AFP.

General Khalifa Haftar attends a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi on May 17, 2014.

Meanwhile, unknown attackers fired Grad rockets at Benghazi’s Benina Airport as clashes broke out in Libya’s second largest city early Monday, Reuters reported, citing army and security sources. Fighting was also reported in two other areas in Benghazi.

At least 70 people have been killed and 141 injured over the weekend in Benghazi in clashes between Islamist militias and army troops loyal to Haftar. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup.”

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

Haftar was an army commander under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi until the 1980s, when he defected. Following Gaddafi’s ouster, Haftar was appointed to rebuild the Libyan military, but was removed shortly after.

Following the ouster of Gaddafi in 2011, militias expanded in numbers, filling in the gap while Libya struggled with weak military and police forces.

Meanwhile, Libya’s parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.

On May 5, Libya’s parliament confirmed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister. Deputy speaker Ezzedin al-Awami called the election invalid, but parliamentary president Nouri Abu Sahmain recognized the choice.

The new prime minister was elected after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April following an attack by gunmen on his family just one month into his term.

The prime minister before that, Ali Zeidan, escaped the country after being fired because he was unable to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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24 killed in Libya clashes, authorities close Benghazi airport

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Twenty-four people were killed in Friday clashes between two militias and army troops loyal to a rogue general in Libya. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup” and closed Benghazi‘s airport.

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

At least 24 people have been killed and 124 wounded, AP reported, citing several health officials. However, Reuters reported that 19 people died in the unrest.

“We have closed the airport for the safety of passengers as there were clashes in the city. The airport will be reopened depending on the security situation,” Reuters quoted Ibrahim Farkash, director of Benghazi’s Benina Airport, as saying.

Haftar’s troops surrounded the bases of Islamist militia Rafallah al-Sahati and a militant group known as February 17, according to officials.

According to Haftar’s spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi, some Libyan military units have joined the fight against the Islamist militias in an operation he called “Dignity of Libya.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade, Ismail al-Salabi, referred to the attack as a coup. Another commander, Fathi al-Obeidi, said Haftar’s attack is “a rebellion against revolutionaries, the state and the legitimate revolt.”

Libya’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Salam Gadallah al-Obeidi, said he will ban any military forces from entering Benghazi to join Haftar, AP reported. He described the unfolding events as a “coup.”

Meanwhile, special forces spokesman Milad al-Zowi has denied that his troops were involved, LANA news agency reported.

In the wake of the recent unrest, Algeria has sent a team of special forces to evacuate its ambassador to Libya and embassy staff in a military plane after a militant threat to its embassy, Reuters reported, citing officials and a security source.

Robert Naiman from think-tank Just Foreign Policy told RT that these types of clashes could plunge Libya into a new civil war.

“It is already the case that one part of the military is apparently not following orders from the central government. It is already the case that the central government does not control the country…that there are rival centers of military power,” Naiman said. “Until now, the central government has been tolerated by these militias, but now apparently there is a faction of the government that wants to restore central control of the country. That is sure to provoke more fighting.”

Former Libyan commander Major General Khalifa Haftar

Naiman also suggested that the troops attacking the militias might be making a power play in order to gain support from the West.

“We don’t know all the causes that are behind this, but it certainly is a striking confluence of events that the US military has announced that it positioned new forces in the region. It is also a striking confluence of events who is being attacked – militias in Benghazi. At the time when the Obama administration is under pressure to go after the groups that it judges responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” Naiman said.

“With some people calling for new authorization of military force in Libya, which the Obama administration is resisting, it certainly would be convenient from the point of view of the Obama administration if some other group of people would go after militias in Benghazi. So it may be the case, I am speculating, that in part, this group that is attacking these militias is making a play for external support.”

Following the ouster of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, militias expanded in numbers, filling in the gap while Libya struggled with weak military and police forces.

Just over a year ago, Libya lost US$1 billion due to a disruption in oil production. Violent incidents involving rival armed groups fighting over who gets to guard Libyan oil and gas facilities have become more frequent in post-Gaddafi Libya. Heavily armed militias have seized oil facilities, and local tribes have demanded revenue or jobs while blockading oil fields and sea terminals.

Haftar was an army commander under Gaddafi until the 1980s, when he defected. Following Gaddafi’s ouster, Haftar was appointed to rebuild the Libyan military, but was removed shortly after.

Meanwhile Libya’s parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.

On May 5, Libya’s parliament confirmed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister. Deputy speaker Ezzedin al-Awami called the election invalid, but parliamentary president Nouri Abu Sahmain recognized the choice.

The new prime minister was elected after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April following an attack by gunmen on his family just one month into his term.

The prime minister before that, Ali Zeidan, escaped the country after being fired because he was not able to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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