Libya’s Grand Mufti urges public to fight Haftar forces

TRIPOLI� Libya's highest religious authority called on the public Thursday to take to the streets against military commander Khalifa Haftar's campaign aimed at capturing the capital.

The Libyan people should resist and fight against Haftar's forces in Tripoli in order not to see crimes against humanity committed in [the eastern cities of] Derna and Benghazi, said Grand Mufti Sadiq Al-Ghariani, speaking to Al-Jazeera Mubasher television based in Qatar

It is no longer a secret that the UN mission in the country cooperates with Haftar, said Al-Ghariani, referring to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

He added that the UN mission was deployed in the country not to resolve problems but to exacerbate them.

On Wednesday, Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Tripoli-based government, ordered security forces to prepare for and respond to any threats aimed at destabilizing the region.

Earlier that day, Haftar, who is affiliated with a rival government based in the eastern city of Al-Bayda, reportedly ordered his forces to deploy to western parts of the country with a view to purging the region of terrorist groups and strongholds.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.

Since then, the country's stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in Al-Bayda, to which Haftar is linked, and another in Tripoli.