Anti-Islamist general named Libya army chief

A once-retired general leading a sweeping offensive against Islamists has been named Libyan army chief, an official said today, in a move expected to deepen divisions in the conflict-riven country.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 03, 2015, 02:04 AM IST

Benghazi: A once-retired general leading a sweeping offensive against Islamists has been named Libyan army chief, an official said today, in a move expected to deepen divisions in the conflict-riven country.

"I've chosen Major General Khalifa Belgacem Haftar for the post of commander-in-chief of the army after promoting him to the rank of lieutenant general," Aguila Salah, the speaker of the internationally recognised parliament, told AFP.

Libya has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and opposing militias have since been battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.

It has two rival governments and parliaments, those recognised by the international community sitting in the far east of the country and the others with ties to Islamists in the capital, Tripoli.

The internationally backed legislature created the post of army chief under a new law passed last week.

A member of parliament said at the time that the law was adopted to "legitimise" Haftar, who calls himself chief of the Libyan National Army.

Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari said Haftar would be sworn in tomorrow before the assembly.

His appointment threatens to derail efforts by UN envoy Bernardino Leon to relaunch a political dialogue in Libya, which has rival governments and parliaments and is flush with armed militias.

Last May, Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in the country's east, prompting the then-government to accuse him of trying to stage a coup.

But after Islamists-led militias seized Tripoli, following disputed elections in June, the internationally recognised authorities have gradually allied themselves with him.

Last month, they formally requested that he and 129 other retired officers return to active service.