Gunmen loyal to ex-general storm Libyan parliament, demand suspension

TRIPOLI, (Reuters) – Heavily armed gunmen stormed Libya’s parliament yesterday demanding its suspension and claiming loyalty to a renegade army general who has vowed to purge the country of Islamist militants.

Khalifa Haftar
Khalifa Haftar

Smoke rose over parliament after gunmen attacked and then withdrew, and gunfire erupted across Tripoli, where rival militias clashed in some of the worst violence in the city since the end the 2011 war against Muammar Gaddafi.

Details of who was involved Sunday’s chaotic attack were unclear, but loyalists of retired General Khalifa Haftar said his forces and militia allies had planned the parliament assault in a campaign to rid Libya of Islamist hardliners.

Any alliance of militias lining up against Islamist groups threatens to deepen chaos in the OPEC oil producer where a fragile government already struggles to gain legitimacy and impose authority over brigades of former fighters.

“We announce the freezing of the GNC,” said Colonel Mukhtar Fernana, a former military police officer from the Zintan region, reading out a statement on al-Ahrar TV.

Haftar’s spokesman Mohamed al-Hejazi said Fernana’s group was allied to the former general.

Fernana said their movement was not a coup, but said the parliament had no legitimacy and should hand over power to a 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.

It was not immediately clear how much backing Haftar’s men had within Libya’s nascent regular armed forces and the country’s powerful brigades of former rebels or whether the parliament was fully under government control after the attack.

Justice Minister Saleh al-Mergani condemned the assault on parliament and rejected the group’s demands.

“The government demands an immediate stop to military action and use of force to express political opinion,” he told a news conference calling for dialogue.

Witnesses said armed local residents were blocking roads to the parliament building after the attack, but their identities and affiliation were not clear.

The attackers kidnapped about 10 employees from the GNC, an official said. At least two people were killed and another 55 wounded in the violence, officials said.

Haftar, once a Gaddafi ally who turned against him over a 1980s war in Chad, fueled rumours of a coup in February when he appeared on television in uniform calling for a caretaker government to end Libya’s crisis.

Since the end of Gaddafi’s one-man rule, militias of ex-rebels have become de-facto powerbrokers in the vacuum of Libya’s political chaos, carving out fiefdoms and exercising their military muscle to make demands on the state.

More in World News

default placeholder

In contrast to Trump, Obama lays out optimistic vision for U.S.

PHILADELPHIA,  (Reuters) – President Barack Obama painted an optimistic picture of America’s future in a speech yesterday aimed at giving full-hearted support to Hillary Clinton to help her defeat Republican rival Donald Trump and become the first woman elected U.S.

default placeholder

Trump draws ire after urging Russia to find ‘missing’ Clinton emails

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump on Wednesday invited Russia to dig up tens of thousands of “missing” emails from Hillary Clinton’s time at the U.S.

Otto Perez

Guatemalan judge charges former president in bribery case

GUATEMALA CITY, (Reuters) – A Guatemalan judge yesterday charged former President Otto Perez with money laundering and bribery in a massive corruption case in which 52 others were also accused, including former ministers, business people and lawyers.

default placeholder

U.S. President Reagan’s would-be killer Hinckley to go free

(Reuters) – John Hinckley Jr., who wounded U.S. President Ronald Reagan and three other people in a 1981 assassination attempt prompted by a deranged obsession with actress Jodie Foster, can be freed from a psychiatric hospital to live with his mother, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

default placeholder

U.S. diplomatic strategy on South China Sea appears to founder

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – In the lead-up to an international court ruling on China’s claims in the South China Sea this month, United States officials talked about rallying a coalition to impose “terrible” costs to Beijing’s international reputation if flouted the court’s decision.

default placeholder

Clinton makes history, wins U.S. Democrats’ White House nomination

PHILADELPHIA, (Reuters) – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination for the White House yesterday, becoming the first woman to head the ticket of a major party in U.S.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: