A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 16, 2014

Heavy Fighting in Benghazi as Rogue General Attacks Militias

 Libya has been increasingly chaotic lately, struggling to elect and install its fifth Prime Minister since the fall of Qadhafi, but now things have taken a dramatic turn.

Veneral Khalifa Haftar (also spelled Hifter), who in February called for a coup and drew no support (and much derision), has launched a military assault against the two Islamist militias controlling the eastern city of Benghazi.The troops he is commanding appear to come from the national Army, and Air Force aircraft have reportedly been bombing militia positions. The Chief of Staff in Tripoli has denounced this as a coup attempt and illegitimate, but local Army forces in Benghazi may be participating.

At this moment the situation is extremely confused, but it seems clear that whether Haftar or the militias win, or reach a stalemate, the fighting underscores the inability of the General National Congress and Cabinet in Tripoli to control events in the east. When Haftar's February call for a coup fizzled, the government ordered his arrest. Not only is he not under arrest, he now seems to have troops and aircraft.

Is this a coup or a split in the army, or something else? Nothing is very clear yet.

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