Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander-in-chief of a breakaway military force denounced by the Libyan central government, has pledged to “purge” Libya from Islamists in a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The [Benghazi] operation, God willing, will not take too much time. This is a purge to conclusively get rid of this disease at this stage,” Haftar said in reference to Libya’s Islamists.
The former Libyan Army chief announced an unsuccessful coup against Libya’s central government in February. Earlier this month, forces loyal to Haftar launched an assault on the eastern city of Benghazi with the objective of retaking bases held by Islamist militias.
Tripoli subsequently denounced Haftar’s forces, who are calling themselves the Libyan National Army, as “illegitmate,” calling on Benghazi residents to “resist” and sending government troops to the region. Haftar supporters responded by storming Libya’s parliament on Sunday, prompting Tripoli to reinforce the capital against further attacks. Local media initially reported that Haftar’s forces number approximately 6,000, including an air force.
But Haftar denied being a renegade, stressing that Libya’s military is behind him and that what he is doing is in Libya’s best interests: “I am an officer in the Libyan Army who is committed to carrying out my duty towards the Libyan people. We always ask ourselves what we can give to our people, who have given us everything. This is my only job, and I stand always ready to give the Libyan people whatever they need.”
Commenting on his supporters attacking the parliament building in Tripoli, he said: “This is a continuation of what is happening in Benghazi. We will go on. We are all one force, complimenting and completing each other.”
The renegade general acknowledged that there is a “security crisis” in the country, saying that he believed “Islamists,” and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, are behind it.
Asked whether he intends to completely “purge” the Brotherhood from Libyan territory, Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Yes . . . completely. I am not looking for reconciliation.”
“There is only one enemy, and that is the Muslim Brotherhood, the malignant disease which is seeking to spread throughout the bones of the Arab world,” he added.
The full text of Asharq Al-Awsat’s interview with Khalifa Haftar will be published in English in the coming days.