Libyan army disavows ex-commander's forces
By Moataz al-Majbari, Friday, May 16, 2014
TRIPOLI – Libyan Army Chief-of-Staff Abdul-Salam el-Obaidi has called on residents of the eastern city of Benghazi to "resist" forces loyal to former army commander Khalifa Haftar, which clashed with an army-affiliated militia in the flashpoint city on Friday.
"Haftar's forces are illegitimate," al-Obaidi told Anadolu Agency. "They have nothing to do with the military; they want to take over Benghazi."
Haftar's irregular forces remain engaged in deadly fighting with the Islamist-leaning Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, which was absorbed into the Libyan army following the ouster of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in February 2011.
The clashes, which erupted earlier Friday, have left at least one brigade member dead.
The Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade is comprised of Islamist-leaning militants who fought Gaddafi during the 2011 uprising.
Although the militia later joined the Libyan army, Benghazi residents continue to accuse its members of backing armed extremist groups.
Haftar loyalists recently launched a campaign in Benghazi dubbed "Libya's Dignity," the stated aim of which is to "purge" the province of "rogue militias."
In February, Haftar – who played a key role in the Libyan uprising – prompted fears of a military coup when he appeared on television in military uniform to demand the dissolution of Libya's parliament and interim government.
He also claimed his forces had seized control of several military and strategic sites around the country.
The Libyan army quickly refuted Haftar's claims, affirming that it was in full control of all army barracks and military units around the country.
Libyan authorities have struggled to restore law and order since Gaddafi's ouster and death in 2011 amid the continued refusal of armed militias – which helped overthrow the late leader – to give up their weapons.
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