By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab and Ayman Amzein.
Tripoli/Benghazi, 8 March 2014:
Would-be military ruler Major-General Khalifa Hafter is touring the . . .[restrict]country in an attempt to rally support for his plans to replace Congress and the government with a military council headed by himself.
He was in Sirte on Tuesday, reportedly along with Libya Shield No. 1 leader Wissam Ben Hamaid, and then in the Cyrenaican town of Marj on Thursday. He has also announced plans to go to Zintan this coming week.
His visits follow last Friday’s rally in Benghazi where an estimated 3,000 anti-Congress protestors turned up to hear him call for it and the government to be removed.
According to reports he was not well received in Sirte by elders of the local dominant Farjana tribe. However, a large crowd turned up to hear him in Marj. Speaking outside the town’s Abu Bakr Mosque, he condemned what he said was the deliberate marginalization of the army and police by Congress and the government.
How many actually in Marj came support him, as opposed to hear is unknown. Hafter has both supporters and detractors in the east, despite his claims that it backs him. After last Friday’s rally in Benghazi, his home in the city was attacked. It now has around 10 guards outside.
Persistent reports circulating on social media claiming that he travelled to Sirte with Ibrahim Jadhran, are untrue, according to the spokesman for the so-called government of Cyrenaica and Jadhran confidant, Ali Al-Hassi. However, he told the Libya Herald that a large convoy of Jedhran’s forces had gone from Ajdabiya to the Sirte area to check oilfield facilities.
The fact that Hafter’s and Jadhran’s names were connected to Sirte at the same time appears to have been the reason for the mistake.
It is believed that the convoy went to check pumps on the pipeline connecting the Waha oilfield to the Es-Sider oil terminal, both of which are in Sirte district, ahead of today’s reported delivery of 350,000 barrels of oil to a North Korean tanker. It then returned to Ajdabiya.
The news of the convoy caused concern in Misrata, where it was thought that it had gone to the town of Sirte. On Wednesday, local radio and TV stations announced a state of alert and members of Brigade No. 154, whose job is to guard and secure the city, reinforced its eastern gate.