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East Libya commander Haftar returning after treatment in Paris

Conflicting reports about Haftar sparked claims that he was gravely ill and that rivals were manoeuvring to replace him
Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar (Reuters)

Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, will return to Benghazi on Thursday after having received medical treatment in Paris, a spokesman for his forces said on Wednesday.

Haftar had been in Paris for about two weeks, where his spokesman earlier said he had been treated after feeling unwell.

From Paris, Haftar flew to Cairo for talks with officials from Egypt, his main backer, several Libyan and Egyptian sources told Reuters.

Haftar, 75, has long been seen as a contender for national power, and reports about his health sparked a flurry of speculation inside Libya, including claims that he was gravely ill and that rivals were manoeuvring to replace him.

Al Jazeera reported on 11 April that he was in a coma at a hospital in Paris, after suffering a stroke.

MEE reported last week, citing a European diplomat, that the general was suffering from lung cancer that had spread to his brain.

"He is unable to talk or even fully comprehend. He cannot even sit or stand up," said the diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous.

"The doctor treating him says that even if he responds partially to treatment, it will be temporary and he will never be normal again."

Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) is aligned with a parliament and a largely powerless government that has been based in eastern Libya since 2014.

They control most of eastern Libya, including the majority of its oil fields and ports, as well as parts of the south.

Haftar and others in the east have opposed an internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli, frustrating UN-led efforts to reunify the country.

LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said that on his return, Haftar will take part in celebrations marking the anniversary of his "Dignity" campaign, the military operation he started in 2014 to drive Islamist militants and other opponents out of Benghazi.

Haftar declared victory in July 2017, though sporadic fighting continued until late last year.

Streets in Benghazi and the town of Rajma, where Haftar has his main base, were earlier cleaned and decorated with posters in preparation for his return.

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