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article imageOp-Ed: Hifter again attacks Islamists as Libyan protesters show support

By Ken Hanly     May 30, 2014 in World
Tripoli - Today demonstrations took place in Martyr Square in Tripoli the Libyan capital in support of the CIA-linked General Khalifa Hifter who is carrying out what he calls "Operation Dignity" against Islamist militias but also against the government.
Hundreds of demonstrators in the square chanted: "The army of dignity is coming". There were rallies in several other cities. Hifter applauded the rallies claiming they gave him a "mandate to fight terrorism". Apparently they also gave him a mandate to attack parliament, kidnap twenty lawmakers and officials and burn the parliament. Hifter has already claimed to have a mandate from the Libyan people for his previous actions. The demonstrations will simply further legitimize what is already a quasi-coup. However, at present Hifter does not seem to be interested in becoming the strong leader. He may leave that to later as he has said that he would run for president if the people demanded it. This is very much the script of former General Sisi in Egypt.
Hifter has not been content with protests. Hifter's main National Libyan Army base is near Benghazi. Yesterday witnesses said that planes launched two missile strikes on two jihadist bases near Benghazi. The National Libyan Army is in effect another competing militia along with the Zintan brigades which support him and the Misrata militias which support the government. As Jason Pack of Cambridge University put it: "What Khalifa Hiftar calls a national army is yet another militia which he has branded or named the national army," There were also two airstrikes carried out on Wednesday on another base that caused damage but no casualties. The government has declared a no-fly zone over Benghazi but it seems not to have any power to enforce it. At least part of the Libyan air force is obviously under control of Hifter.
Sheikh Mohamed Lamin who supports Hifter said: "This stand is for the country, for saving what is left of the country's dignity, and also supporting the army and police so they can eliminate criminals and outlaws," Ismail Sallabi who comes from a family of prominent Islamists had a different perspective:
“He who has lost his dignity in Chad is not going to regain it in Benghazi. We see Hifter exactly as we saw Qaddafi.” Islamists were persecuted under the Qaddafi regime and were strong supporters of the rebellion that overthrew him. Hifter led a disastrous mission into Chad on behalf of Qaddafi but then turned against him in return for release of him and his troops who then fought against Qaddafi funded by the CIA until the Chadian government was overthrown. He eventually ended up for 20 years in the US. Jason Pack noted:"There was more unity when their goal was to overthrow Gadhafi. The further that has receded into memory, the different factions have begun expressing their own agendas. Libyans remember both his CIA connections and his Gadhafi connections, and when he tried to insert himself into the rebel leadership in 2011 when the uprising began, he was never taken seriously. He is a man who wants to hold power so much that he is playing whatever circumstance exists to his benefit."
The government itself is also split with Abdullah Al Thani the former prime minister who resigned because of threats against his family claiming that he is still the prime minister because the newly elected prime minister is not legitimate. Thani claims that he has received conflicting orders from the divided parliament after businessman Ahmed Miitig was elected. Al Thani said he would remain in his post until the General National Congress resolves the dispute. Thani said that a justice department ministry legal department ruling had declared that Miitig's election was illegal but the president of the congress at the same time had ordered him to transfer power to Miitig: “The conflict is mainly taking place under the roof of the congress. I call on congress members to wisely discuss their dispute, step away from their interests, and to give priority to the interests of the country to avoid bloodshed.” The conflict in the parliament however mirrors that among rival armed groups and shows no sign of being resolved as yet. An election is set for June 25.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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