Tripoli, AP—A group of Islamist lawmakers on Tuesday 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 Maiteeq, took power with help of an Islamist militia late Monday, 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 Maiteeq to his office.
Maiteeq, 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 Monday, government spokesman Alaa Al-Kassab said.
Maiteeq’s adviser Nadhal Roumidah said parliament ordered Maiteeq to take office even though the incumbent refused to give it up.
Hours later in a televised statement, Maiteeq condemned the recent violence that has rocked the eastern city of Benghazi. Benghazi was the birthplace of the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in Libya’s 2011 civil war. It is also the focal point of rebel Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s campaign against Islamists.
A former Gaddafi-era army chief, Haftar 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 Haftar have bombed Islamist militia camps in Benghazi.
The fighting has paralyzed the city, with schools canceling end-of-term exams and hospitals calling for blood donations. A Benghazi medical official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists, said the death toll from the recent fighting has reached 22 people killed, with dozens wounded.
Outgoing Prime Minister Abdallah Al-Thinni has contested the legality of Maiteeq’s election, saying the judiciary should have the final say in the matter. Libya’s Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to rule Thursday on Maiteeq’s election.
After Maiteeq entered the government building, a group of Islamist lawmakers made a televised statement blaming Thinni for Libya’s insecurity and “wasting funds.” The lawmakers said that the fighting in Benghazi is one example of the incompetence of the Thinni government and the divisions within the army.
The lawmakers also denounced Haftar’s offensive, calling it 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 Thinni disappeared while members of his Cabinet left the country to prevent the transition of power.