Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman who leads an army that controls most of eastern Libya, returned to his seat of power in the war-ravaged African country following rumors that he was dead this week as he received medical treatment in Paris for about 20 days.
“I assure you that I am in good health,” a grateful Haftar, the 75-year-old leader of the prominent Libyan National Army (LNA) that controls most of eastern Libya, told a gathering in Benghazi, thanking them for their support and loyalty, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports.
“We are going to continue to do our best to win the battle for Libya. Now our army has been ranked 9th on the African countries’ list. We all should be proud,” added the general, who served under Gaddafi to whom he has been compared by some news outlets, the Libya Observer adds, noting:
Over the last twenty days, media reports brought in hundreds of news stories of conflicting news about Haftar’s health ranging from he had a stroke to he had an irreversible brain damage, with little details given by his aides to squash allegations.
Citing an unnamed source, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya notes that there were threats against Haftar upon his return.
“Haftar moved with a convoy amid security threats upon arrival at the military base of the army headquarters in the city of Marj,” the outlet reports.
Rumors of his absence prompted concerns of a power vacuum that would further fuel the chaotic conditions that have allowed jihadist like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) groups to remain active in Libya.
“Analysts believed Gen Haftar’s adult sons would try to take up his mantle in the event of his death but that his coalition might fracture and eastern tribal leaders might splinter off,” the Telegraph points out.
However, various news outlets report that the general, who has been described as the “new Gaddafi” by some analysts, triumphantly returned to Libya, likely putting an end to the confusion triggered by his absence.
“He wore a black suit and walked down the stairs of the jet unaided. Military officers, politicians, and tribal leaders were waiting on a red carpet to embrace him,” the Telegraph reveals.
Gen. Haftar’s LNA fighters reject the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), based in western Libya.
The LNA has surfaced as a force against the various jihadist groups that operate in Libya. Last year, the force liberated Benghazi from the likes of al-Qaeda.
Libya descended into chaos in 2011 after a U.S/NATO-backed uprising overthrew dictator Muammar Qaddafi, leaving armed groups, political factions, and jihadist organizations vying for control.