Anti-Islamist general named Libya army chief

Anti-Islamist general named Libya army chief

BENGHAZI - Agence France-Presse
Anti-Islamist general named Libya army chief


A once-retired general leading a sweeping offensive against Islamists has been named head of the Libyan army loyal to the country’s internationally recognized parliament, an official has said, in a move expected to deepen divisions in the conflict-riven nation.

“I’ve chosen Major General Khalifa Belgacem Haftar for the post of commander-in-chief of the army after promoting him to the rank of lieutenant general,” Aguila Salah, the speaker of the internationally recognized parliament, told AFP.

Libya has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gadhafi, and opposing militias have since been battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.

It has two rival governments and parliaments – those recognized by the international community sitting in the far east of the country and the others with ties to Islamists in the capital, Tripoli.

A member of parliament said at the time that the law was adopted to “legitimize” Haftar, who calls himself chief of the Libyan National Army.

Last May, Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in the country’s east, focused on the second city of Benghazi, prompting the then-government to accuse him of trying to stage a coup.

But after Islamist militias seized Tripoli, following disputed elections in June, the internationally recognized authorities have gradually allied themselves with a figure previously seen as a power-hungry rogue general.

Last month, they formally requested that he and 129 other retired officers return to active service.