Islamist militias deploy in Libya’s capital

The Central Shield militias were seen by resident taking positions in Tripoli

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Islamist-led militias flowed into Libya’s capital on Thursday to protect the Islamist-dominated parliament against a renegade general’s offensive.

Libya’s Central Shield militia were seen by residents as they took position among army stations near the airport highway in Tripoli’s south, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

The militia from the country’s western city of Misrata are under the command of Libya’s chief of staff, who reports to the parliament.

The Libyan government urged all militias to withdraw from Tripoli and stay out of politics.

The cabinet “issued an appeal to the chiefs of all armed brigades in Greater Tripoli” to leave the city and steer clear of politics, Culture Minister Habib Lamine said.

The interim parliament, meanwhile, announced that the country will hold legislative elections on June 25.

“It has been decided that Wednesday, June 25, will be date for the election of parliament,” said Salah al-Makhzoum, deputy vice president of the General National Congress, reading an official statement.

Dozens of people have been killed since General Khalifa Haftar’s offensive began last Friday, demanding that Libya’s government hands power to the country’s top judges, and calling for the formation of a Presidential Council to take over from parliament, oversee elections and hand power after a nationwide vote to a new legislature.

He said the government lost legitimacy after being unable to eradicate extremists gaining control across the country since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.

“I call on the top judicial council to form a crisis government to oversee the next elections,” Haftar said in a statement aired on Al Arabiya News Channel earlier this week.

Haftar’s campaign against Islamists won the support of many government officials and military units. Hi alliance now includes the military intelligence, police forces and the air force.

Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Washington, vowed Tuesday to defend its stronghold in Benghazi against Haftar’s expanding alliance.

The group charged that a deadly assault in the eastern city on Friday that mainly targeted its forces was “a war against ... Islam orchestrated by the United States and its Arab allies.”

(With AFP, AP and Reuters)

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