Hifter to face 'decisive confrontation' with Libyan Islamists

Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hifter declared the tutelage of the Libyan army over the transitional period and called for a civilian council to lead the new state of Libya.

al-monitor People demonstrate together with a soldier in support of Gen. Khalifa Hifter's "Operation Dignity," a campaign against Islamists, at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, May 23, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah.

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tripoli, revolution, parliament, misrata, libyan militias, libyan army

May 23, 2014

A decisive confrontation between Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s forces and Islamic militias is just around the corner in Tripoli, the capital city of Libya. These militias have mobilized thousands of fighters from central Libya and other regions, and turned a blind eye to the interim government’s call to withdraw from the city to prevent bloodshed.

This came a day following a strong statement made by Hifter late Wednesday [May 21], which observers have considered a major statement. He declared the tutelage of the army over the transitional period and the suspension of parliament until new elections are held.

In a statement read by Libyan Minister of Culture Habib al-Amin, the government called “all the leaders of the armed brigades in greater Tripoli to leave the city and move away from the political scene to protect the city and its people.” This statement was a direct reply to Parliament Speaker Nuri Abu Sahmain’s decision to recruit a force consisting of former rebels from Misrata to protect the capital.

The force of 4,000 fighters was positioned in the Khalat Furjan district in southern Tripoli. Omar al-Chatyawi, Libya's Central Shield militia security affairs officer, said the force is tasked with securing the city’s exits and entrances, as well as vital governmental institutions.

The Libyan army battalions have continued to join “Operation Dignity” that was launched by Hifter, as the southeast protection unit, which consists of the Tabu Brigade, said it has joined Hifter’s forces and condemned the assassination of army and police members in Libyan cities. The unit affirmed in a statement its support for the army and police, and for the activation of their role in protecting all corners of the country.

While the Arab League held a delegates consultative meeting to discuss the serious developments in Libya yesterday [May 22], an important statement was made by Egypt’s former defense minister and presidential candidate, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during which he said the continuation of the Libyan crisis will bring down the state, not the regime.

In an interview with Al-Hadath Al-Arabiya news channel, Sisi said that Western countries are responsible for what is occurring in Libya. He said, “Western countries are responsible before history and humanity, as the mission in Libya has not been achieved. It was necessary to collect the weapons and enhance the efficiency and capabilities of the security services.”

In a televised statement, Hifter called upon the Supreme Judicial Council in Libya to take over power in the parliament, whose mandate expired, and to form a caretaker interim government until parliamentary elections are held.

The statement — the second since February 18 — focused on “Operation Dignity,” which [Hifter] is leading, to “correct the path of the February 17 Revolution under the leadership of the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces.”

He accused members of parliament of betraying public trust vested in them, which is to protect the homeland and citizens, and build a civil state based on the institutions in Libya, which had a negative impact on the course of political, social, economic and security life. Thus, Libya has become a state sponsor of terrorism and a hotbed for terrorists who control the government’s main positions, resources, wealth and judicial authority.

Hifter pointed out the rampant corruption, bribery, nepotism and presence of former regime members in major and sensitive positions in state services and institutions, in addition to the lack of security and safety, the spread of killings, robberies, kidnappings and torture to death in illegal prisons.

On behalf of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Hifter demanded the Supreme Judicial Council appoint a civilian council to lead the state and a caretaker emergency government to oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Observers noted that Hifter emphasized that power would be handed over with the next parliament. “The Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces will continue to protect Libya and its people, and to preserve its resources and wealth,” he said.

Observers said the most dangerous part of the statement is that “the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces will continue to protect this transitional period and the period that follows,” which implicitly refers to the tutelage of the army until the end of the transitional phase.

Commenting on the statement of Hifter, legal experts told Al-Hayat, “In light of the ongoing killings and kidnappings, nothing is going in accordance to the laws in Libya, and each is doing what he wants without any deterrence.” They asked, “Is this demand the only illegal thing happening in Libya?”

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