Libya’s eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar said his Libyan National Army (LNA) was accepting a “popular mandate” to rule the country, apparently brushing aside civilian authorities nominally governing eastern Libya.
Haftar, who launched a n offensive a year ago to grab Tripoli and parts of north-west Libya, is widely understood to control the parallel administration ruling in the east.
He did not spell out in a brief televised speech what form the new power structure would take and wider political ramifications were not immediately clear.
Libya has been split since 2014 between areas controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the north-west and territory held by eastern-based forces in Benghazi.
“We announce the general command is answering the will of the people, despite the heavy burden and many obligations and size of the responsibility, and we will be subject to the people’s wish,” he said.
The LNA advanced into the southern suburbs of Tripoli and bombarded the capital, it lost ground to pro-GNA forces during recent fighting.
Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. The GNA is backed by Turkey.
Haftar has long been the de facto ruler of eastern Libya, power was nominally held by a civilian administration. Benghazi is home to parallel state institutions, as well as the national parliament.
The GNA falls under a three-man Presidential Council, founded in 2015 in a political agreement aimed at ending chaos and division since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
Haftar said last week the agreement failed.
Mohammed Ali Abdallah, a GNA advisor, said in a statement: “Haftar once more exposed his authoritarian intentions to the world. He no longer seeks to conceal his contempt for a political solution and democracy in Libya.”