Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libya is facing the prospect of the creation of two rival, hostile governments, a senior Libyan defense official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.
Mohamed Bouyassir, a senior adviser to the Libyan army, said the situation in Libya was approaching one in which there would be “two parliaments and two governments,” one of which would be based in the west of the country and dominated by Islamists, including members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the US and has been sanctioned by the UN.
Members of the Islamist militia group known variously as “Libyan Dawn” or “Operation Dawn” captured Tripoli International Airport on Saturday after a five-week battle against rivals from the city of Zintan.
The capture of the airport effectively gave control of the city to the group, which has refused to recognize the transitional Libyan government elected in June.
The newly elected House of Representatives recently fled the capital for Tobruk, further east. It has declared Libyan Dawn to be a terrorist organization, while the Islamists have called for the revival of the previous transitional government, the General National Congress.
The Tobruk-based government has few military assets to draw upon, though forces loyal to renegade army officer Gen. Khalifa Haftar—who call themselves the Libyan National Army—have been battling Islamist militias in the city of Benghazi, and claim to have launched a series of airstrikes against the Libyan Dawn fighters.
Bouyassir told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar’s forces were loyal to the Tobruk-based government and were steadily improving their capabilities, and would eventually be able to restore order to the country.
He went on to accuse opponents of the Tobruk-based government of “rejecting the democratic process,” and said that they were remnants of the leadership that emerged from the chaos of Libya’s 2011 revolution who were refusing to surrender their hold on power.
“For example, the state mufti, the Defense Ministry’s Khalid Al-Sharif, and [Abdelhakim] Belhadj were never elected, but they and others put the state under their control, and they will not to give it up,” Bouyassir said.
He also said that under the previous government, Libyan state funds were diverted to Syria and Iraq and that “the whereabouts of huge amounts of money were not known to anyone apart from them.”
Bouyassir called for international support for Haftar’s forces, saying that one of Libya’s remaining international airports—in Benina, east of Benghazi—was under threat.
He added: “As far as the army goes, it has taken over some of the extremists’ positions. They [Libyan Dawn] are trying to take control of Benina [International] Airport and are bombarding it from the areas of Sidi Mansour and Bouatney. The story is complicated and [Haftar’s HQ] told me there was nothing to fear.”
Bouyassir also said he had sent messages to foreign ambassadors calling for help for the armed forces “because since [Sunday], the [Libyan] National Army since been the official army of the state, according to a statement issued by parliament.”
“[The airport] is now under threat. We have a long war ahead of us and the world must support us,” he continued.
The situation in Libya is causing increasing concern among the country’s neighbors, leading foreign ministers from Chad, Algeria, Tunisia and Sudan to meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Monday.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri warned that the chaos in Libya posed a threat to the entire region, and called for international intervention to disarm the warring militias in the country.