Things Got Ugly in Libya This Weekend

Khalifa Haftar-aligned militiamen stormed parliament yesterday
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2014 7:20 AM CDT
Updated May 19, 2014 7:53 AM CDT
Things Got Ugly in Libya This Weekend
In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, smoke rises over the parliament area.   (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

The Libyan government maintains that it is still in control after a weekend that saw its own parliament building stormed—though whether that is the case remains unclear, reports Reuters. What happened, and what's happening, in the tumultuous country:

  • Yesterday's attack on parliament: Loyalists of retired general Khalifa Haftar stormed the building in Tripoli, with local media reporting that roads in the capital were made impassable by men who commanded truck-mounted heavy weapons.
  • How it's being reported: The Washington Post describes yesterday's events, which killed two, as "some of the worst fighting the capital has seen since the 2011 revolution."
  • What they want: Haftar's allies say the goal of the attack was to eliminate Islamist hardliners from Libya, the BBC reports. The AP reports that the Haftar-aligned troops yesterday declared they had suspended the Islamist-dominated house, blaming it for empowering Islamic extremists, and was replacing it with a 60-member constituent assembly that was elected earlier this year to create a new constitution for the country; Libya's interim government brushed the announcement off.

  • Background on the breakdown: As per the Los Angeles Times, "lawmakers are divided among Islamist and non-Islamist elements, and the swearing in of a new Cabinet led by an Islamist-leaning prime minister, Ahmed Matiq, has been repeatedly delayed by political infighting."
  • Who is Haftar? He's described in US media reports as a "rogue," "mysterious," and a "renegade," with the LAT describing him as having a prominent role in the 2011 uprising against Moammar Gadhafi, who he helped bring to power in 1969 and severed ties with in 1988. Prior to that he lived in ... Falls Church, Va., having sought exile in the US in the '80s. His immediate whereabouts are unclear.
  • The trouble didn't start yesterday: Forces loyal to Haftar attacked bases in Benghazi controlled by Islamist groups Friday, and 70 reportedly died. Commandeered military aircraft were reportedly used, and officials implemented a "no-fly" zone over the city in an attempt to ground such planes. The LAT notes that some of the country's military units appear to have defected to Haftar's side; Reuters says it's unclear how much support his side has "within Libya's nascent regular armed forces."
  • What's happening today: Islamist-led militias have been deployed to Tripoli on orders of the country's army chief. The AP reports this could set the stage for a "possible showdown."
(Read more Libya stories.)

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