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Libyan capital tense after gunmen storm parliament

Tripoli, May 19 (): The Libyan capital remained tense on Monday, a day after heavily equipped gunmen stormed the parliament of Libya with anti-aircraft weapons on Sunday. Two people were reportedly killed and more than 50 were wounded in the incident.

Details of who were responsible for the attack at the parliament were unclear, but a spokesman for retired Libyan general Khalifa Haftar claimed responsibility and said his forces had launched an attack as part of his operation to free Libya of Islamist militants and to eliminate powerful Islamist paramilitaries from the eastern city of Benghazi.

In the attack, the militia members armed with the truck-mounted anti-aircraft arms, rocket fire and mortars raided the parliament building situated in the centre of the city Tripoli, sending officials running away to survive as gunmen raided the legislature.

In the chaotic and confusing attack, heavy smoke arose from the parliament building when the gunmen fought with the guards. Reports say the attackers invaded, attacked and left the place, and later other unknown gunmen closed off the nearby streets. It is said to be the worst violence in the city since the end of 2011 war against Muammar Gaddafi.

Hours after the attack, a commander in the military police in Libya read out a statement saying that the parliament had been suspended.

Haftar, a former dissident in the war against Gaddafi, had sent his fighters already on Friday into Benghazi against the Islamist militants centred there, claiming that the Libyan government had failed to stop violence in the eastern city.

On Saturday, military commander-in-chief and parliamentary speaker Nuri Abu Sahmain blamed Haftar of attempting to stage a coup. Several reports said Sahmain had been kidnapped after Sunday’s attack, but he denied it.

Many former rebellious fighters have been put on the government workforce to offer security to offices and ministries, but they often remain more loyal to commanders, political allies or their regional tribes than the state.