Libya ministers released as political factions jostle for power – Metro US

Libya ministers released as political factions jostle for power

FILE PHOTO: Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha announces election bid
FILE PHOTO: Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha announces election bid in Tripoli

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s new parliament-backed government said on Friday that an armed group linked to rival authorities had released two of its ministers held against their will, but tensions remained high between political factions.

The office of Fathi Bashagha, the parliament’s choice for prime minister, had said the two ministers were held on Thursday as they travelled by road to the swearing-in of his cabinet in the east of the country after domestic flights were grounded.

Airports said flights had resumed on Friday and Bashagha’s office said the two men, his foreign minister and culture minister, were freed.

The armed group could not be immediately reached for comment about the alleged capture or the release.

The parliament swore in Bashagha as prime minister on Thursday even though the incumbent, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, refused to cede power, effectively leaving the North African nation with two rival governments.

Libya’s political crisis threatens a return to violence and territorial division after a year and a half of comparative peace.

Bashagha has said he will base his government in Tripoli, but control of the city is divided between rival armed groups including some that back Dbeibah and have said they will stop his opponent taking power.

Bashagha, a former interior minister under the previous internationally recognised government in Tripoli, has said he is making arrangements to assume office in the capital peacefully. Late on Thursday he called on state bodies to stop obeying Dbeibah.

Bashagha’s office had accused Dbeibah of closing Libyan airspace to stop the swearing-in ceremony in Tobruk, in the east, and said the armed group accused or seizing the ministers was connected to Dbeibah’s administration.

Dbeibah’s government did not respond to requests for comment.

Both Mitiga airport in Tripoli and Benina airport near Benghazi said on Friday that normal flights had resumed.

The United Nations has not so far recognised Bashagha’s legitimacy and raised doubts over the parliamentary process by which his government emerged.

U.N. Libya adviser Stephanie Williams has pushed for a return to an election process abandoned in December and has invited the parliament and another political body, the High Council of State, for talks.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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