Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libya’s Interior Minister Omar Al-Zanki said on Monday that the decision by Libya’s internationally recognized parliament to reinstate him is binding on interim Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani, who sacked him in February for criticizing a top army general.
“I never abandoned my post nor recognized the prime minister’s decision . . . Only parliament has the power to sack or appoint ministers in the government,” Zanki told Asharq Al-Awsat.
PM Thani suspended Zanki after the interior minister made comments criticizing Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose current military campaign against Islamist insurgents in the country is backed by Thani and the internationally recognized Libyan parliament, based out of the northeastern Mediterranean city of Tobruk.
Haftar was named head of the Libyan army early in March.
The rift highlights the challenges facing Thani’s government, which is fighting for power and oil revenues against an Islamist rival government based out of the capital Tripoli.
Zanki reiterated that he did not accept Thani’s decision and has been carrying out his ministerial duties from his office in the city of Al-Bayda, where Thani’s internationally recognized government is headquartered.
The Thani parliament fled to the eastern city of Tobruk after the outgoing Islamist-dominated parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), and an alliance of Islamist militias known as Libyan Dawn, occupied the capital Tripoli.
The Tobruk-based parliament and its government in Al-Bayda have allied themselves with Haftar, who launched a military campaign, dubbed “Operation Dignity,” against Islamist militias in Benghazi last year.
The interim government refused to comment on parliament’s decision to reinstate Zanki.
A spokesman for Thani also declined to comment on the row when approached by Asharq Al-Awsat.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) franchise in Libya announced in a statement on Monday the death of one of its top leaders, Ahmed Al-Rouissi.
According to the statement, the Tunisian leader of the ISIS affiliate was killed during clashes with military forces loyal to Thani’s government near the coastal city of Sirte, an Islamist stronghold.
Also on Monday, around 20 foreign medical workers, mostly from the Philippines and Ukraine, were abducted by ISIS militants from the Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte, according to eyewitnesses.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, local sources said the militants took the nurses to another part of the city which has been at the center of fierce clashes between ISIS and Libyan Dawn.