The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 18, 2014

Renegade Libyan general says parliament suspended

TRIPOLI, Libya — Forces apparently loyal to a renegade Libyan general said they suspended parliament Sunday after earlier leading a military assault against lawmakers, directly challenging the legitimacy of the country's weak central government three years after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

A commander in the military police in Libya read a statement announcing the suspension on behalf of a group led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a one-time rebel commander who said the U.S. backed his efforts topple Gadhafi in the 1990s. Hours earlier, militia members backed by truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket fire attacked parliament, sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives as gunmen ransacked the legislature.

Gen. Mokhtar Farnana, speaking on a Libyan television channel on behalf of Hifter's group, said it assigned a 60-member constituent's assembly to take over for parliament. Farnana said Libya's current government would act on an emergency basis, without elaborating.

Farnana, who is in charge of prisons operated by the military police, said forces loyal to Hifter carried out Sunday's attack on parliament. He also said Sunday's attack on Libya's parliament was not a coup, but "fighting by the people's choice."

"We announce to the world that the country can't be a breeding ground or an incubator for terrorism," said Farnana, who wore a military uniform and stood in front of Libya's flag.

It was not immediately clear where Farnana gave the address. Khaled al-Sharif, a deputy defense minister, later told Libyan television station al-Ahrar that the militias' moves violated the government's legitimacy.

Militias that backed the country's interim government manned checkpoints around the capital late Sunday. Hifter's forces in Tripoli appeared concentrated around the road to the city's airport and its southern outskirts.

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