Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—A former Libyan army commander, Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, has urged Libyans to support his military campaign aiming to end what he described as the political crisis in Libya.
Haftar released a video on February 14 announcing that Libya’s interim government had been dissolved and that the army was stepping in to produce a new political “roadmap,” in what some reports said was an attempt to launch a military coup.
However, Haftar’s declaration fell flat, and no units from Libya’s embryonic military are reported to have taken part. He was swiftly denounced by the authorities, and Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan issued a statement on state TV saying: “We won’t let anyone hijack the Libyan revolution . . . The military command has given orders to arrest Haftar with the help of the revolutionary troops following [the release of] his communique.”
In the interview with the Al-Hurra TV channel on Friday evening in Benghazi, Haftar said: “We have presented the Libyan people with an initiative and they must carry out their duty and speak out, and we are prepared to do what the people instruct us to do.”
Haftar launched a scathing attack on the General National Congress (GNC) and Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s transitional government. He said “Zeidan has done things which have negatively affected the respectful way people looked at the position of prime minister.”
In response to parliament speaker Nouri Abusahmain’s rejection of his statement, Haftar said: “We have nothing to do with him; my statement is aimed at the Libyan people, not him. Where is the state which merits a coup? And where is the army which would carry out such a coup? There is no proper army in place. Also, where are the institutions of the state?”
He added: “We are the military and we are proud of that, and we have not done anything that indicates that our actions represented a military coup. We are citizens, not mercenaries.”
In another development, officials at Benina Airport in Benghazi said six people were arrested on suspicion of possession of forged Libyan passports while trying to board a flight to Istanbul. Six suspects were also found in possession of around 146,000 US dollars, according to a Reuters report.
Airport officials said five of the six suspects were Qatari nationals although the Qatari embassy in Tripoli issued a statement, signed by Qatari Ambassador Mohammad Bin Nasser, which denied the report.
A Libyan security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The likelihood is that the detainees are fighters who were trying to join the fighting in Syria and used Libyan passports to travel.”
Western diplomats in Libya have expressed fears that Islamists were using Benina Airport in Benghazi to travel to Turkey to join the anti-government fighting in Syria. Libyans do not need a visa to enter Turkey and there are daily flights there from Benghazi where security measures are not tight at the relatively small airport.
The six suspects, an airport official added, were about to board a flight to Istanbul after arriving on transit from the Qatari capital Doha.
The government issued a statement which said investigations into the issue were ongoing in coordination with the joint security bureau in Benghazi, adding that details would be released as soon as information is received from the relevant authorities.