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Libya PM Thani says to capture capital

Thani says ex-general Haftar's forces are 'under the command of the regular army and the control of government and parliament'
The government of Abdullah al-Thani (L) has taken refuge in the east of Libya (Facebook)

Libya's prime minister said Saturday that military forces in the strife-torn country had united to try to capture Tripoli and the second city Benghazi from Islamists.

"All military forces have been placed under army command to liberate Tripoli and Benghazi soon, God willing," Abdullah al-Thani said in an interview with AFP by telephone from the eastern town of Al-Baida.

Since a 2011 revolution which toppled Libya's longtime leader Moamer Gaddafi, interim authorities have failed to establish a regular army and had to rely on state-backed militias.

Former rebels who fought against Gaddafi have formed powerful militias and seized control of large parts of turmoil-gripped Libya over the past three years.

An operation launched Wednesday against Islamists in Benghazi, launched by former general Khalifa Haftar, is "under the command of the regular army and the control of government and parliament," Thani said.

More than 50 people have been killed in the operation.

Haftar launched a first, unsuccessful, campaign against the Islamists in Benghazi in May, but without the support of authorities.

At the time, the authorities accused the former Gaddafi-era general -- who spent years in exile before returning to join the revolution -- of trying to mount a coup.

Before this week's assault, Haftar's forces had been steadily beaten back to a final redoubt at Benghazi's airport, which has come under attack by Islamists since mid-September.

Thani's government and new parliament, elected on June 25, have taken refuge in the country's east to escape Fajr Libya, a mainly Islamist coalition which seized control of Tripoli at the end of August.

The fall of the capital followed a weeks-long battle with pro-government militias from the town of Zintan.

Thani said the Zintan forces had also been placed under army command and joined regular units which aim to recapture the capital from Fajr Libya.

The sharp political divisions in Libya have yielded two rival seats of government, each of which has its own institutions.

Two assemblies currently vie for legislative authority: a recently-elected House of Representatives, which convenes in the eastern city of Tobruk; and the General National Congress, which – even though its mandate ended in August – continues to convene in capital Tripoli.

The two parliaments support two different governments respectively headquartered in the two cities.