Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Libya political crisis escalates amid unrest

03 June 2014, 18:46

Tripoli - Libya's new premier was on Tuesday challenging his rival, who refuses to step down, after deadly fighting between a rogue ex-general, who claims his forces represent the army, and Islamists in their Benghazi stronghold.

Former general Khalifa Haftar has exploited the political confusion to rally support among the public, politicians and the army, analysts say, after he unleashed an offensive in the eastern city last month to purge Libya of the Islamists he brands "terrorists".

"When the state is absent, whoever emerges will be considered the country's last hope," said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the now-disbanded Transitional National Council, the political arm of the rebellion that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011.

On Monday, as clashes raged in Benghazi between militants and forces loyal to Haftar, prime minister Ahmed Miitig convened his ministers despite the head of the outgoing government, Abdullah al-Thani, refusing to recognise him.

Last Wednesday, Thani said he would let the judiciary decide whether he should cede power to the new cabinet, citing appeals filed by MPs against the chaotic General National Congress vote in May that elected Miitig.

It took place days after gunmen stormed the GNC, the Islamist-dominated interim parliament, to interrupt an earlier ballot.

The supreme court is due to examine the appeal on Thursday, according to lawmakers.

Rival coup claims

The GNC's vice-president, liberal MP Ezzedine al-Awami, called Miitig's installation as prime minister a "coup d'etat".

The Islamist-backed authorities have, for their part, accused Haftar of launching a coup and denounced him as an outlaw.

The dissident general denies this, saying he has no political ambitions and insisting, after thousands of Libyans rallied behind him, that he has a mandate from the people to pursue his offensive to crush "terrorism".

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has urged Libyans to fight Haftar and his so-called National Army, labelling him an "enemy of Islam".

Neither of the rival premiers has publicly endorsed the ex-army general's campaign, although they have both stated their determination to combat "terrorism", while stressing that all operations must take place within the law.

Reflecting doubts about Haftar's real intentions, Ben Sassi said the rogue general had already been preparing his campaign before the latest political crisis erupted in Tripoli.

"The division within the ruling elite and the total absence of the state in Benghazi has given him more influence and support, allowing him to replace the state using the regular army and even the air force," which has sided with him, he said.

Benghazi violence

Miitig, a 42-year-old businessman from Misrata without political affiliations, is backed by the Islamists in the GNC, which liberals have largely boycotted for months.

He would be Libya's fifth prime minister since Gaddafi was toppled and killed in the Nato-backed uprising in 2011.

Miitig is due to lead the country to legislative elections on 25 June, with the new parliament replacing the GNC and forming a new cabinet.

Observers say he is backed by the Islamists in parliament, who consider him the best guarantor of their political survival ahead of this month's vote.

"The face-off between Miitig and al-Thani illustrates the showdown between the Islamists and the liberals," said Iyad Ben Omar, a Libyan analyst.

"Both of them are clinging to power with the elections expected to take place in just a few weeks, which proves that they are pursuing their own political agendas," he added.

On the ground, schools and banks were shut in Benghazi on Tuesday and the streets deserted after the worst fighting there since 76 people were killed in mid-May, when Haftar launched his "Operation Dignity".

Twenty-one people were killed on Monday, with hospital officials in the port city, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising, saying at least 11 soldiers were among the dead. Another 112 people were wounded.

The number of Islamists killed was not known.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...