Photo by Mohammed Elshaiky / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Libya renegade general seeks emergency cabinet

Rogue general claims to speak for army, says Libya has become 'a hub for terrorists who control power'

A renegade general who has launched an assault against militias in Libya's east warned that the country has become a "terrorist hub.”

Claiming to speak in the name of the Libyan army, Khalifa Haftar urged Libya's highest judicial authority "to form a civilian presidential high council tasked with forming an emergency cabinet and organizing legislative elections."

Speaking from the eastern town of Al Abyar, he said the presidential council he envisions would hand over power to an elected parliament.

"Libya has become a hub for terrorists who control power," said Haftar, who has been branded an outlaw by Libyan authorities after launching an assault that killed at least 79 people in the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday.

Haftar, who was once among former strongman Muammar Gaddafi's top generals before falling from grace and going into U.S. exile, read a statement broadcast on several Libyan networks.

He returned to support the rebellion in 2011 but has this year emerged as the most serious challenge to the post-Gaddafi authorities born of the rebellion against the former leader.

Libya’s parliament has been accused of being controlled by the Justice and Construction party, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist pan-Arab political party that has gained influence in the country after being largely exiled under former strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar's statement comes on the same week that a new government is expected to replace the caretaker government and a new prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, is expected to be sworn in pending parliamentary approval.

Maiteeq is from Misurata, a city with the largest pro-Brotherhood militia, earning him scorn from anti-Brotherhood militias such as Al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq.

Experts say Haftar's televised statements may have been timed to undermine the weekend inauguration of Matiq, who has offered Haftar and his supporters a chance at political dialogue.

“My impression is that Haftar is not willing to compromise. Haftar and his supporters wish to attack the legitimacy of Matiq’s authority, because ultimately, they want to eliminate Islamists and radical militias," Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council of Foreign Relations, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.  

Security threat

Highlighting the seriousness of the security threat, the navy's chief of staff, Rear Admiral Hassan Abu Shnak, his driver and two guards were wounded on Wednesday when gunmen attacked his convoy in Tripoli.

It was not known what prompted the attack on the admiral. Abu Shnak was on his way to work when his convoy came under fire, spokesman Col. Ayub Kassem the told Agence France-Presse.

"He was lightly wounded in the head. A driver and two guards were also wounded, but their injuries are not life-threatening," he said.

Militias are blamed for growing unrest in the country since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ended Gaddafi's rule.

Successive governments have complained that the GNC's claim to executive power, as well as legislative authority, has tied their hands in taming the militias.

The government hopes such a vote could help avoid civil war after Haftar, whom authorities have branded an "outlaw," launched an assault on Friday on militias the retired general describes as "jihadists" in Benghazi.

Haftar's supporters include an elite special forces unit of the regular army in Benghazi. The forces have suffered mounting losses in attacks by well-entrenched militias.

Gunmen from the former rebel Zintan brigade, saying they back Haftar, stormed the Islamist-dominated parliament in Tripoli on Sunday, setting fire to an annex.

The secretary general of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, Bashir al-Kabti, has denied accusations of "supporting terrorism," which Haftar levels against the Islamist party dominating the GNC. 

In a phone interview with the German DPA news agency, ak-Kabti accused Haftar of attempting to import Egypt's scenario of a 'coup' against its own branch of the Brotherhood. Kabti also called for dialogue to avoid further bloodshed.

Police brigades, officers at Tobruk airbase and the powerful Al-Baraassa tribe from the east have also declared support for Haftar. 

The chief of staff of Libya's air defense units, Colonel Gomaa al-Abbani, told a private television channel he was joining Haftar's offensive, dubbed "Operation Dignity."

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News


Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter



Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter