By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 22 May 2016:
Claims that Khalifa Hafter has ordered Government of National Accord (GNA) defence minister Mahdi Al-Barghathi back . . .[restrict]to Benghazi or be court martialled are not true, Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed Mismari has told the Libya Herald.
“The day he went to Tripoli, he chose not to be part of the Libyan armed forces,” Mismari said. “We are no longer responsible for him.”
An Emirati news site has been quoted claiming that “a high ranking” officer belonging to Hafter’s command had told it on Saturday that Barghathi told to resign from the government and return to Benghazi or be punished.
Mismari said that the LNA was aware of the report but it was false.
It was also not true that members of the 204 Tank Brigade, of which Barghathi was commander, had threatened anyone who was opposed to his becoming defence minister in the GNA, he said. On the contrary, the LNA had appointed a new commander and changed the name of the brigade, and this was happily accepted by the members.
Mismari, however, did not name the new commander, saying that for security reasons it had to be withheld but that an announcement would be made shortly.
For his part, Barghathi has moved to heal the breach with Hafter.
In an interview in Tripoli with Libya’s Channel TV station, he noted that Hafter had said he supported the legitimacy of the House of Representatives (HoR). “This is what Libyans want”, Barghathi said. They certainly did not want to be ruled over in the name of religion or by militias – a key Hafter position.
Both the GNA forces and the LNA had to unite to fight IS, Barghathi stressed. Otherwise “Daesh’s fire will burn Libya”. The GNA, he said, wanted to work “in cooperation with the leadership of the military institution” in the war against terror. But the army was not there not serve any individual, party or tribe. Its aim is to protect Libya and Libyans, he said.
Despite the apparent current divide between him and the LNA, he also stated that he had had “a cordial meeting” with boycotting Presidency Council member Ali Gatrani and a number of members of the HoR and that they had talked about the army.
Gatrani is a firm supporter of Hafter. [/restrict]