Middle East

Armed group deployed in Libyan capital

Militia linked to al-Qaeda deployed in Tripoli in a bid to restore order in the wake of an attack on parliament.

Last updated: 19 May 2014 15:45
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Libya's parliament chief has ordered the deployment of an armed group in the capital Tripoli, a day after forces loyal to a renegade general attacked the country's national assembly building, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The deployment comes amid a deteriorating security situation, with the interim government struggling to restore order in a country where various armed groups have virtually carved out their own fiefdoms.

On Monday, the security situation took a turn for the worse with an al-Qaeda-inspired group, the Lions of Monotheism (LMG), threatening to retaliate against the troops of the renegade General Khalifa Qassim Haftar. 

The renegade general's forces had attacked the Libyan parliament on Sunday, demanding its suspension. They accused the government of using "Islamist hardliners".

On Monday, a Libyan air force unit based in the eastern city of Tobruk decided to back forces loyal to Haftar in their fight against the LMG,  the Reuters news agency reported.

"The Torbuk air force base will join ... the army under the command of General Khalifa Qassim Haftar," a statement read. Staff at the air base confirmed its authenticity.

Meanwhile, there were reports that an airport in the eastern city of Benghazi had come under rocket attack early on Monday. The Reuters news agency said the airport had been ordered closed until May 25.

Security concerns

The European Union said it was "deeply concerned" over the recent bout of violence in Libya that had left nearly 80 people dead and more than 140 injured.

A spokesman for foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said the EU was concerned about the "continuing deterioration".

"The EU renews its commitment to support the Libyan people ... and calls on all parties to build consensus so as to ensure a transition to a stable democracy," spokesman Michael Mann said.

Since the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, successive Libyan governments have struggled to impose order as heavily armed former rebels have carved out their own fiefdoms.

Hafter is a one-time rebel commander who said the US backed his efforts to topple Gaddafi in the 1990s. He says his group is taking on some of Libya's most violent groups, and blames the government for not doing more to tackle them.

Witness joins a group of Libyan rebel fighters defending the frontline in Misrata

Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it was closing its embassy and consulate in Tripoli and withdrawing all of its diplomatic staff, citing security concerns, the state news agency SPA reported.

Turkey temporarily closed its consulate in Libya's second city of Benghazi due to a threat of an attack, the Reuters news agency reported, citing Tanju Bilgic, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

'Media war'

The attack on the Libyan parliament came after an assault on Friday by Hafter's forces on religious armed groups in Benghazi that authorities said killed 70 people.

Hafter blames the government for allowing "extremists" to hold the country to ransom, his spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi told Libyan television station al-Ahrar.

Al Jazeera's Omar Saleh said the government's accusations against Haftar of staging a coup reflecrted its concern and that "a media war is ongoing between warring sides, where each side is trying to magnify their power."

Officials believe members of the al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq militias, the largest in the capital, backed Hafter even though they operate under a government mandate. Al-Qaaqaa posted a statement on its official Facebook page saying it attacked parliament with Sawaaq because politicians supported "terrorism".

Parliamentary head Nouri Abu Sahmein earlier told Libyan television station al-Nabaa that parliament would convene on Tuesday.


Aljazeera And Agencies
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