Libya Asks Retired General Khalifa Haftar to Resume Army Duty

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Libya's internationally-recognized government has recalled retired General Khalifa Haftar to army duty, officials said on Monday, cementing its alliance with him in a struggle against a rival administration claiming national authority.

The decision shows the increasing influence of military figures in the official government and parliament, which, frustrated with the loss of Tripoli and lack of an efficient army or police, have gradually built up a military alliance with Haftar.

Libya has had two governments and parliaments competing for legitimacy since Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) seized the capital in August, installing its cabinet and forcing the government of recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to the east.

Western powers, who backed the military uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, fear that extremists, who they armed and trained during the uprising, are seeking to exploit a power vacuum in the oil-producing nation.

Haftar is one of dozens of commanders of irregular forces which have refused to disarm after the ousting dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In May, he launched his own war against Islamist fighters in the eastern city Benghazi.

But his warplanes have also attacked commercial airports and a steel plant in western Libya. They hit a Greek-operated fuel tanker in Derna this month, killing two seamen, after Haftar's forces claimed it was carrying Islamist fighters.

A copy of an official decree obtained by Reuters recalled Haftar and 108 other former Gaddafi-era army officers for active army duty.

Haftar's air force chief Saqer al-Joroushi and lawmaker Idris Abdullah confirmed the contents of the decree. It was issued weeks ago but had not previously been made public.

Libyan Dawn has denounced Haftar as a Gaddafi loyalist trying to stage a counter-revolution with former regime officials.

Haftar helped Gaddafi seize power in 1969 but fell out with him in the 1980s after a disastrous defeat during a war in Chad.

Haftar has said he only wants to rid Libya of Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia.

In a video message in February, he announced what some feared was a coup, though that did not materialize. Later he demanded a special council to run Libya. Haftar has also drawn support from an armed group in the western town of Zintan which was blamed for an attack on parliament in Tripoli in May.

Senior officers linked to Haftar have also been given top posts in the recall.

Libyan Dawn says Haftar is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which are worried about the spread of Islamists. He denies this but some analysts wonder how the tiny air force is able to stage almost daily attacks.

Fighting in Libya has displaced tens of thousands since the summer and disrupted medical and health services. Conflict has caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure.

One medic, asking not to be named, said on Sunday that an estimated 600 were killed in three months of heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and militants in Libya's second-largest city Benghazi.

One hospital had 71 bodies in its morgue which had not been claimed by relatives, he added.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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