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Libya's Rising Strongman: Gen. Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter Survives Attack

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The December 10 daylight attack on Libyan army commander Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter underscores the extent to which Libyan government stability may depend on his prestige and ability to unify disparate rebel commands and consolidate centralized military control in Libya.


Militia forces in control of Zintan said today they were unaware that Gen. Hifter was in the armored column they had fired upon Saturday, according to a Dec. 12 report from Taiwan News Online.   


"Khaled el-Zintani, a spokesman for the Zintan fighters, denied they tried to kill Hifter, and blamed the violence on the army's failure to notify them that the general was coming," the report said.


Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter by

Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter by

Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter by

Khalifa Abulgasim Hifter by

The charismatic Hifter has since 1987 evinced a prominent role in opposition to the 42-year Gaddafi regime rebels overthrew in a seven-month struggle with substantial NATO backing and punctuated with the Oct. 20 killing of the former dictator.  


Hifter, who will turn 69 on Christmas Day, has overcome many challenges in the last quarter century, including key challenges to his authority during the course of the rebellion.


Power Struggles


First among them was the east-west tug of war between Hifter and the late Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, who was killed July 28, shortly after Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) had recalled him to Benghazi to discuss his command decisions on the western battlefront.


Younes had been Gaddafi's Interior Minister before he joined the rebel side on Feb. 22.   Media reports had referred to him as one of Gaddafi's "most trusted lieutenants," an esteem Younes apparently had not earned among the forces to whose side he had defected.   Rebels interviewed in Libya for a March 28 McClatchy Newspapers report "openly voiced distrust" for Younes.


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David Alan Coia is a freelance writer and editor based in Arlington, VA.

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