Ansar Al-Sharia Claim Islamic Emirate in Benghazi
Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia has said that it seized complete control of Benghazi late on Wednesday, declaring the city an “Islamic emirate,” the group’s representative said. The rebels inflicted a major defeat on Special Forces loyal to retired Major General Khalifa Haftar. Scores of his troops were killed in battles over the past few days. A well-informed source in Benghazi claims that Haftar left for Egypt in order to spend Eid with members of his family who live there. Hafar, however, has denied these claims.
The military success of Ansar Al-Sharia exacerbates a complex situation in Libya. With the House of Representatives set to convene on the 4th of August in Benghazi, Ansar Al-Sharia will surely seize every opportunity to destabilize the fragile government institution. Activist Yusuf Al-Qumati said that the Muslim Brotherhood and those who are close to the movement should determine their position regarding the attempts to undermine the state project in which they participate by virtue of the power-sharing arrangement.
It will be very interesting to see if this recent gain made by Ansar Al-Sharia will last. Haftar stated that the national Libyan army is in control of Benghazi and only withdrew from certain positions for tactical reasons. However, circles close to Haftar attributed the defeat of his forces to the failure of the east Libyan tribes to stand by him as well as to having faith in an appeal for a ceasefire made by former Provisional Council Head Mustafa Abd Al-Jalil.