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Libya political crisis escalates amid Benghazi unrest

Libyan men loyal to rogue general Khalifa Haftar during clashes against Islamists in Benghazi on June 2, 2014Libya’s new premier was Tuesday challenging his rival, who refuses to step down, after deadly fighting between a rogue ex-general, who claims his forces represent the army, and Islamists in their Benghazi stronghold. Former general Khalifa Haftar has exploited the political confusion to rally support among the public, politicians and the army, analysts say, after he unleashed an offensive in the eastern city last month to purge Libya of the Islamists he brands “terrorists.” “When the state is absent, whoever emerges will be considered the country’s last hope,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the now-disbanded Transitional National Council, the political arm of the rebellion that overthrew Moamer Kadhafi’s regime in 2011. On Monday, as clashes raged in Benghazi between militants and forces loyal to Haftar, prime minister Ahmed Miitig convened his ministers despite the head of the outgoing government, Abdullah al-Thani, refusing to recognise him.

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