By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 17 May 2014:
GNC head Nuri Abu Sahmain, in a joint statement with caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni and . . .[restrict]Chief of Staff Major Gneral Jadallah Obeidi today, condemned the military actions taken by retired military commander General Khalifa Hafter in Benghazi yesterday.
At least 14 people and possibly 26 were reported to have been killed in the fighting in Benghazi yesterday between forces led by General Khalifa Hafter on the one side and 17 February Brigade, Libya Shield No. 1 Brigade and Ansar Al-Sharia on the other.
Abu Sahmain called the military action illegal and illegitimate and a “coup attempt”. He called on members of the regular forces in Benghazi and on the pro 17 February militias, recognised by the state, to restrain themselves and refrain from taking part in any military action.
The GNC head also said that all those that had participated in the military activities would be pursued legally, including Hafter, who was referred to as “one of the 1969 coup masters”. He also said that shooting down any military aircraft in the skies of Benghazi would be legitimate.
Hafter, for his part in a press conference this evening stressed that the military operations codenamed “karama” (dignity) would continue, without giving much details.
He denied rumours circulating that Egypt had a hand in his military operations or that some of the Air Force aircraft that took part in yesterday’s bombing were from Egypt. He also stressed that the aircraft were piloted by Libyans.
Mohamed Hijazi, the spokesperson for Hafter, and a former spokesperson for Benghazi’s Joint Security Room (BJSR), speaking live on Libya Al-Ahrar TV’s evening news, mocked the GNC, government and their joint statement.
Hijazi said that he did not recognize the legitimacy of the government or the GNC. He claimed that the GNC had long lost their legitimacy back on 7 February (the date he said they were supposed to end their term).
The government and GNC were out of touch, weak and ineffective, he added, saying that his own forces’ military actions were in response to demands of the people (in the face of terror attacks by extremists, criminals and extremist Islamists). He stressed that the “Dignity” operation would continue, but refused to disclose any further details.
Earlier in the day Hijazi had called on residents of three districts to evacuate, on the assumption of a planned military strike. However, Hijazi refused to elaborate.
This evening, there was an eerie calm in Benghazi as most of the city’s inhabitants waited nervously to see what happened next. There are conflicting reports as to how much support Hafter enjoys in Benghazi. Some inhabitants and commentators have expressed relief and joy on the fact that someone – anyone – was prepared to confront the extremist militias.
Others saw no difference between the illegitimate Hafter, who they saw as pursuing his own personal political agenda, and the extremist militias he was confronting. [/restrict]