Wednesday 17 January 2018

Militia helps Libyan PM take office

Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg has reportedly taken power in Libya with help of an Islamist militia
Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg has reportedly taken power in Libya with help of an Islamist militia

A group of Islamist lawmakers has accused Libya's outgoing prime minister of hindering the newly-elected prime minister from taking office.

It is the latest crisis to roil the North African country as a renegade general leads an offensive against Islamists.

The lawmakers' statement came a day after their ally, Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg, took power with help of an Islamist militia late yesterday, according to a Facebook post by lawmaker Fatma al-Majbari.

The daily newspaper Al-Wasat reported that militiamen from the Libya Central Shield - one of several militias on the government's payroll - accompanied Mr Maiteg to his office.

Mr Maiteg, a businessman who owns a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli was recently elected prime minister by Libya's Islamist-dominated parliament in a contested vote. He held his first Cabinet meeting behind closed doors shortly after entering the government headquarters, government spokesman Alaa al-Kassab said.

Mr Maiteg's adviser Nadhal Roumidah said parliament ordered him to take office even though the incumbent refused to give it up.

Hours later in a televised statement, Mr Maiteg condemned the recent violence that has rocked the eastern city of Benghazi.

Benghazi is the birthplace of the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in Libya's 2011 civil war. It also is the focal point of renegade General Khalifa Hifter's campaign against Islamists.

A former Gaddafi-era army chief, Gen Hifter has rallied support from the country's weakened military, its anti-Islamist politicians, tribes and diplomats, vowing to crush the Islamist militias he blames for Libya's instability.

Since last weekend, helicopters flown by pilots loyal to the general have bombed Islamist militia camps in Benghazi.

The fighting has paralysed the city, with schools cancelling end-of-term exams and hospitals calling for blood donations. A Benghazi medical official said the death toll from the recent fighting has reached 22 people killed, with dozens wounded.

Outgoing prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni has contested the legality of Mr Maiteg's election, saying the judiciary should have the final say in the matter. Libya's Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to rule on Thursday on Mr Maiteg's election.

After Mr Maiteg entered the government building, a group of Islamist lawmakers made a televised statement blaming Mr al-Thinni for Libya's insecurity and "wasting funds". The lawmakers said that the fighting in Benghazi is one example of the incompetence of al-Thinni government and the divisions within the army.

The lawmakers also denounced Gen Hifter's offensive, calling it as a form of "terrorism" and a coup.

"The parliament condemns the coup and demands the government to take measures and refer those responsible to trial," one of the lawmakers reading out the joint statement said, adding that Libya now has "two armies under one title."

They said that Mr al-Thinni disappeared while members of his Cabinet left the country to prevent the transition of power.

Press Association

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