CAIRO, EGYPT - A Libyan Army spokesman is calling on young men in the capital, Tripoli, to rise up and help overthrow the Islamist militia coalition controlling the city. Army officials made a similar plea several days ago for help to rid the major eastern city Benghazi of Islamic militants.
Libyans gathered in the capital Tripoli's iconic central square to mark the third anniversary of the fall of long-time strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Celebrations took place Thursday despite the on-again, off-again fighting between Islamist militias and the country's official army.
At the same time, army spokesman Ahmed al Misnari - in a TV broadcast - called for able-bodied men in the capital to rise up against the Islamist Fajr militia coalition which has ruled the city since routing army forces in August.
He said the Libyan Army has implemented a plan to establish air cover for the operation as army forces try to retake Tripoli. He urged men of fighting age in the city to rise up with their weapons [to oust militia forces controlling the city].
A Libyan Army commander issued a similar call on Tuesday urging young men in the country's eastern capital Benghazi to help drive Islamist militias out of the city.
Sky News Arabia showed amateur video of Libyan Army tanks advancing through the Salameh district of Benghazi. The report said army forces control the city's eastern part and were “close to its center.” VOA could not independently confirm the claim.
Al Jazeera TV reported that there were numerous casualties from recent fighting and that some bodies remained in the streets because rescue workers were unable to reach them.
Georgetown University Middle East expert Paul Sullivan told VOA the fight over Tripoli and Benghazi was part of an existential struggle across the Arab world.
"This is one of the battles for the soul of the Arab world. It's either the Muslim Brotherhood, more dictatorships, other extremist groups or those who want a better future for the Arabs. Libya right now is hurtling towards a failed state as it battles over this issue,” he said.
Sullivan added that Syria and Yemen were “already failed states” and that Algeria could face a similar fate if things deteriorate. He warned that the “future of the Arab world is in great peril,” if those seeking a “better, more prosperous...and peaceful Arab world” don't “win the battle.”
In a statement on his website, U.N. special representative for Libya Bernardino Leon urged Libyans to “solve [their] problems on the basis of dialogue.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon made a similar plea earlier this month during a visit to Libya.
In the Algerian capital Algiers, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri met Thursday with his Algerian counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, to discuss the conflict in Libya.