London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Victorious Islamist militias declared they were reinstating the country’s previous parliament and forming a cabinet on Monday, in defiance of the country’s new interim government.
A spokesman for the General National Congress, which was superseded following elections earlier this month, announced it had selected one of its members, Omar Al-Hassi, to form a “salvation government.”
As a result Libya now has two rival governments, one based in the west in Tripoli, and one based in Tobruk in the east, raising fears of further chaos in the country, which has been rocked by instability and feuds between rival militias since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In Tobruk, Libya’s newly elected House of Representatives denounced the move and branded the GNC’s as illegitimate.
“The meeting was illegal, its decisions are illegal, and the only legislative body is parliament,” said Abdullah Al-Thani, the interim prime minister.
The move follows the fall of Tripoli’s main airport to an alliance of pro-Islamist militias known as “Libyan Dawn” on Saturday, following weeks of fighting against rivals from the town of Zintan, in what was only the latest outbreak of violence between rival factions that is tearing the country apart.
This development also follows allegations from US officials that jets from the United Arab Emirates, flying from Egyptian bases, carried out two airstrikes last week in a bid to prevent a Libyan Dawn victory in the battle for the airport.
According to a report published in the New York Times, several unnamed US officials confirmed that Emirati jets carried out the attacks. They also said the airstrikes had taken the US by surprise, and that they feared they could destabilize the country further.
“We don’t see this as constructive at all,” one senior American official told the paper.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian government denied any involvement in the bombing. An Egyptian military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We do not respond to accusations from unknown figures. These accusations are worthless. We do not get involved in altercations with newspapers. If a US official emerges and says this [on the record], then we will respond. It is not right for unofficial statements to be issued about sensitive issues that are related to a state’s sovereignty and security.”
UAE officials have yet to comment on the allegations, with one spokesman telling news agency AFP that it had “no reaction” to reports of Emirati involvement in the airstrikes.