Second son of Libyan commander wounded by militia

AFP – Fri, Dec 16, 2011

A prominent Libyan military commander charged on Friday that a powerful ex-rebel group shot and wounded one of his sons, in the second such incident targeting his family.

“There is a bid to harm me through my sons…. This is an attack against the national army,” Khalifa Haftar, who was chosen last month to head the yet to be formed Libyan army, told reporters in Tripoli.

According to Haftar, his son Belgacem was heading to a hospital to visit his brother Saddam, who had been shot and wounded the previous day in a clash outside a bank with members of the powerful Zintan Brigade.

“Belgacem was going to visit his brother Saddam at the hospital when he was arrested and wounded with gunfire,” Haftar said, adding that the son was taken to the Zintan Brigade headquarters at the Tripoli airport.

Haftar, who headed ground forces during the uprising that toppled Moamer Kadhafi, had served in the army of the now slain dictator but defected in the 1980s and went into exile in the United States.

He returned to Libya in March to take up arms in the rebellion that ousted Kadhafi from power.

In November, some 150 officers and sub-officers unanimously approved his appointment as Libya’s new commander-in-chief of the armed forces and announced the re-activation of the army, which has yet to be officially reconstituted.

The Zintan fighters are credited with leading the units that captured Tripoli in August and its members are holding Kadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, after capturing him last month.

They still control several installations, including Tripoli’s international airport.

Haftar’s men and Zintan fighters have clashed three times in the past week.

On Thursday one person was killed and two wounded, including Haftar’s son Saddam, in a gunfight outside a Tripoli bank.

Saddam Haftar tried to force his way into a bank guarded by members of the Zintan Brigade and his comrades were armed, Mokhtar Lakhdar, a commander of the Zintan Brigade, told AFP on Thursday.

But a spokesman for Khalifa Haftar denied the claim and said the violence was a plot against the army officer.

General Haftar said his son Saddam had been shot four times in the leg. Belgacem’s condition was unknown.

Last Saturday two people were killed and two others wounded in clashes near Tripoli’s international airport, with Zintan fighters and Haftar’s men blaming the other side for starting the gunfight.

Libya’s new interim National Transitional Council rulers are under heavy pressure to disarm hundreds of former rebels who toppled Kadhafi’s regime and who are now enforcing security on the streets.

Earlier this month hundreds of residents of Tripoli backed by agitated policemen protested against the presence in Tripoli of these armed men who led the uprising against Kadhafi.

Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib has pledged that the militias will be demilitarised soon but said the task is “more complex” than it appears.

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