Renegade Libyan general says parliament suspended

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In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, Tripoli joint security forces on vehicles with heavy artillery stand guard on the entrance road to the parliament area after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Forces loyal to a rogue Libyan general attacked the country’s parliament Sunday, expanding his eastern offensive against Islamists into the heart of the country’s capital. (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, Tripoli joint security forces on vehicles with heavy artillery stand guard on the entrance road to the parliament area after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Forces loyal to a rogue Libyan general attacked the country’s parliament Sunday, expanding his eastern offensive against Islamists into the heart of the country’s capital. (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, vehicles with heavy artillery of the Tripoli joint security forces move closer to the parliament building after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Forces loyal to a rogue Libyan general attacked the country’s parliament Sunday, expanding his eastern offensive against Islamists into the heart of the country’s capital. (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, smoke rises over the parliament area after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Forces loyal to a rogue Libyan general attacked the country’s parliament Sunday, expanding his eastern offensive against Islamists into the heart of the country’s capital. (AP Photo/Libyan national army)

In this Saturday, May 17, 2014 photo, Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter addresses a press conference in Benghazi, Libya. The death toll from fighting over the weekend in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi between troops loyal to Hifter, a rogue general, and Islamist militias has risen to at least 70, the Health Ministry said on Sunday. In a statement late Saturday, Libya’s interim prime minister, parliament speaker and the head of military warned Hifter against further pursuing his offensive and threatened the troops cooperating with him. (AP Photo/Mohammed el-Shaiky)

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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A group led by a renegade Libyan general said Sunday it suspended parliament after launching an attack against the legislative body.

Gen. Mokhtar Farnana, speaking on a Libyan television channel, said a group led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter had assigned a 60-member constituent’s assembly to take over for parliament.

Farnana said Libya’s current government would act on an emergency basis. He did not elaborate.

Farnana said forces loyal to Hifter carried out Sunday’s attack on parliament. He also said Sunday’s attack on Libya’s parliament was not a coup, but “fighting by the people’s choice.”

“We announce to the world that the country can’t be a breeding ground or an incubator for terrorism,” said Farnana, who wore a military uniform and stood in front of Libya’s flag.

Farnana serves as the commander of the military force in Tripoli. Libya’s interim government had no immediate comment on the broadcast. It was not immediately clear where Farnana spoke from.

Sunday’s attack on parliament, in which Hifter’s forces kidnapped some 20 lawmakers and officials in an assault that threatened to further splinter a country dominated by the armed groups that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi three years ago.

The attack, which hospital officials said killed one person and wounded nine, came after an assault Friday by Hifter’s forces on Islamist militias in the restive eastern city of Benghazi that authorities said killed 70 people. On Sunday, troops loyal to Hifter targeted the Islamist lawmakers and officials the general blames for allowing extremists to hold the country ransom, his spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi told Libya’s al-Ahrar television station.

“This parliament is what supports these extremist Islamist entities,” al-Hegazi said. “The aim was to arrest these Islamist bodies who wear the cloak of politics.”

The fighting spread to the capital’s southern edge Sunday night and along the highway leading to the airport.

Libya’s army and police rely heavily on the country’s myriad of militias, the heavily armed groups formed around ethnic identity, hometowns and religion that formed out of the rebel factions that toppled Gadhafi. Bringing them under control has been one of the greatest challenges for Libya’s successive interim governments, one they largely failed at as militias have seized oil terminals and even kidnapped a former prime minister seemingly at will.

In the fighting Sunday, officials believe members of the al-Qaaqaa and Sawaaq militias, the largest in the capital, backed Hifter even though they operate under a government mandate. Al-Qaaqaa posted a statement on its official Facebook page saying it attacked parliament with Sawaaq because lawmakers supported “terrorism.”

The two groups previously gave parliament an ultimatum to dissolve after its mandate expired in February, threatening to detain lawmakers. They never carried out their threats but parliament eventually vowed to hold elections later this year.

Islamist-backed parliamentary head Nouri Abu Sahmein earlier told Libyan television station al-Nabaa that the militias loyal to the government had matters “under control,” and vowed to convene parliament Tuesday.

An official with the Libyan Revolution Operation Room, an umbrella group of militias groups in charge of the security in the capital, said the gunmen “kidnapped” some 20 lawmakers and government officials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists.

Lawmakers said security officials tried evacuate them before attackers breached the parliament, following warnings the building would be assaulted.

Libya’s parliament is divided between Islamist and non-Islamist factions, with rival militias lining up behind them. Recently, Islamists backed the naming of a new prime minister amid walkouts

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