Libya PM downplays ex-army chief's Benghazi move

Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni downplayed the size and scope of forces loyal to former Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar

Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni downplayed the size and scope of forces loyal to former Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar

TRIPOLI – Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni downplayed the size and scope of forces loyal to former Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar, which mobilized in the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday.

"A military plane was dispatched from Benghazi's Benina military base without having been instructed to do so by the Libyan army command," al-Thinni told reporters.

He added, however, that Friday's deployment of forces loyal to Haftar in Benghazi "lacks any sanction by the state."

Al-Thinni also reaffirmed that Libya's eastern border was "safe and stable."

Haftar's irregular forces remain engaged in deadly fighting in Benghazi 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's forces during the 2011 uprising.

Benghazi residents, however, continue to accuse the brigade 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 2011 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, however, affirming that it was in full control of all army barracks and military units throughout 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 had helped overthrow Gaddafi – to give up their weapons.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency