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Tripoli calls out militias in bid to crush ‘coup’ bid

Extremists join fight to halt veteran commander following attack on capital’s parliament building

LIBYAN President Nouri Abusahmein ordered Islamist-led militias to deploy in the capital Tripoli today after forces loyal to General Khalifa Hifter stormed parliament.

Gen Hifter’s action threatens to detonate volatile divisions among the multiple militias that dominate Libya.

He said that he aimed to crush the Islamists he accused of seizing control of the country and he appears to have the support of some militias from the eastern half of Libya and the western Zintan region.

In the other camp, Islamist-leaning Mr Abusahmein ordered the powerful umbrella group known as Libya’s Central Shield to mobilise against Gen Hifter’s forces. 

The umbrella group is dominated by a militia from Libya’s third largest city, Misrata.

Further raising the potential for chaos, one of Libya’s many al-Qaida-inspired extremist groups, the Lions of Monotheism, vowed to fight the Hifter troops.

The confrontation further deepens the chaos Libya has endured since the civil war and Nato-led bombings that saw leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi removed and summarily executed in 2011.

With militias running rampant, central government has little power and the army and police remain shattered.

Parliament is divided between Islamist parties, which hold a majority, and their opponents, each of which is backed by rival militias.

Former rebel Gen Hifter appears to be trying to harness public frustration with the government’s impotence, vowing to get rid of extremists and impose effective authority.

Militiamen loyal to him stormed and ransacked the parliament building in Tripoli on Sunday. Two people were killed and more than 50 wounded. 

His allies then announced that the legislature had been suspended and replaced by a new emergency body that would run the country.

The attack in Tripoli followed assaults on Friday by Hifter forces on Islamist militias in Benghazi, which authorities said killed 70 people.

Libyan officials believe that members of the Al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq militias — the largest in Tripoli — backed the general. 

His declaration of parliament’s suspension was largely ignored, and his forces pulled out late on Sunday. 

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