Libya’s Interior Ministry posted a message on Facebook supporting General Khalifa Haftar, a renegade soldier who has launched an offensive against the Libyan government believed to be responsible for 100 deaths since last Friday. The Minister of the Interior denied any official support for Haftar.
The BBC reports that the Facebook message claimed the Libyan interior ministry “fully supports” Haftar’s campaign: “We confirm our full support of the will of the people and of the many statements in aid of the Libya’s Dignity campaign against terrorism.” Libya’s Dignity is the name of Haftar’s campaign, which began on Friday in Benghazi and aims to eradicate Islamist extremists within the Libyan government.
Interior minister Salih al-Mazig later denied supporting the campaign or General Haftar, however, or a separate attack on Muslim Brotherhood members in Tripoli this weekend. Haftar’s initiatives have been backed by several high-profile power players in Libya, including Colonel Wanis Bukhmada, the commander of Libyan special forces in Benghazi, who told Reuters, “We are joining the battle of dignity launched by the Libyan National Army with all our men and weapons.” Such alliances have guaranteed Haftar support from the air as well as infantry. Haftar, who served as army chief under the government of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has also, according to the Associated Press, acquired the support of the nation’s United Nations ambassador. Ambassador Ibrahim al-Dabashi described the move as “not a coup… but a nationalist move.”
Haftar is calling for the eradication of the current Libyan government and removal of any Islamist elements within the higher echelons of Libyan power. The Libyan government is accusing the general of organizing and attempting to stage a coup against those currently in power.
The recent fighting in Libya has triggered international warnings that the region is once again dangerous and politically unstable. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are evacuating their embassies in Libya, and Algeria has closed its border with the nation. Jordan has also issued a warning to travelers that their safety can no longer be guaranteed in Libya. The United States, meanwhile, has doubled the number of aircraft in Italy to prepare for any escalation in violence or potential civil war.
Amid the violence, the Libyan government has called parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 25. The elections are believed to be an attempt to assuage tensions between rival groups, channeling them into politics rather that military violence, according to Libyan news agency LANA.