Libya uprising: Former general Khalifa Hifter declares war on parliament and the Islamist militias

As his power base grows, Mr Hifter has branded his stunning offensive as a war on terrorism

The former general who is leading an armed uprising in Libya says that he will not negotiate with his rivals and will instead rely on force to achieve his objectives.

“We see that confrontation is the solution,” Khalifa Hifter said from his headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi. “I do not think talks will work with them.”

On Friday, Mr Hifter launched an offensive in Benghazi against Islamist militias that have been widely blamed for a string of killings. As least 70 people were killed and dozens injured in the most intense fighting since the revolt that deposed the dictator Muammar Gaddafi three years ago. The assault was followed two days later by an attack on the national parliament by militias loyal to Mr Hifter.

The fighting was a dramatic sign of the central government’s inability to assert control over the country, which has broken up into virtual fiefdoms ruled by militias since the ousting of Gaddafi. The stunning offensive of recent days led by Mr Hifter – a former anti-Gaddafi activist who spent years in exile in Virginia – has prompted militias to choose sides, in what could be a prelude to large-scale clashes.

Mr Hifter and his backers have branded their campaign as a war on terrorism, although a complex web of tribal and local interests and shifting allegiances are also coming into play.

He said he did not recognise the authority of the Islamist-led parliament, known as the General National Congress. “The GNC has been rejected by the people, and its legitimacy has ended. The government is ineffective,” he said.

A militiaman guards his camp after clashes in Benghazi last week (Reuters) A militiaman guards his camp after clashes in Benghazi last week (Reuters)
In an apparent effort to defuse the crisis, the country’s High Election Commission set 25 June as the date for new parliamentary elections, the government news agency Lana reported on Tuesday.

The parliament met in secret on Tuesday at the waterfront Radisson, one of a handful of top-level hotels in Tripoli. Only 60 of the 200 legislators attended the session, according to Abdullah al-Gmata, one of the politicians who was at the meeting.

A proposal to postpone a vote on Prime Minister designate Ahmed Matiq’s cabinet by 10 days was considered, but no action was taken.

Mr Hifter said he began planning his offensive about a month ago but that there had been discontent among former military officers for more than a year-and-a-half. “We planned it after we saw people being slaughtered in the streets,” he said, referring to the slayings of police, judges, lawyers and others in Benghazi.

He said that he saw no quick end to the fighting. “Operation Dignity is multiple battles; it’s not just one battle.”

He said that his opponents are in residential areas and therefore he would no longer rely on heavy artillery or air power, as his forces had done in the initial Benghazi assault. “It’s going to take some time,” he said.

Mr Hifter said he has not received any support from abroad and nor was he in contact with the US government. Asked whether he was seeking a role in a future government, he said: “Now the only important thing on our minds is security for all our citizens.” He added that his goal was to establish an effective national army and police force.

Mr Hifter’s self-declared Libyan National Army is backed by many former military officers as well as militias tied to the cities of Benghazi, Tobruk and Ajdabiya in the east and Zintan in the west.

The militiamen are armed with truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers (Getty) The militiamen are armed with truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers (Getty)
He has a long history with the Libyan military; as a young officer, he took part in the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi to power. He later fought in Libya’s war against Chad before being taken prisoner and turning against the Libyan leader.

On Tuesday, Mr Hifter continued to pick up allies, including a former senior military officer, Maj-Gen Suleiman Mahmoud, and former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

The Justice and Construction Party, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned Mr Hifter’s use of force and called for dialogue “to prevent bloodshed”. Powerful militias in Misrata that are aligned with Islamist parties have said they are prepared to go to the capital.

Ansar al-Sharia, one of the most extreme Islamist groups operating in Benghazi, charged in a statement on Monday night that the offensive was “in reality a war on Islam”.

Mr Hifter denied that the fighting could turn into a civil war. “On the contrary, we have the people with us,” he said.

© The Washington Post

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup