CAIRO (AP) — Libya's outgoing parliament voted Monday to replace the current interim government with one headed by an Islamist-backed candidate, deepening the conflict-torn country's already stark divisions and leaving it with two rival parliaments and governments.
The outgoing parliament met in Tripoli in defiance of the newly elected parliament, which convenes in the country's east because of ongoing clashes in the capital and the eastern city of Benghazi. The Islamist-dominated outgoing parliament refused to recognize the authority of the new one, which is dominated by non-Islamists, because it said it has not formally handed over authority.
The division is rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional divisions between groups who ascended to power following the 2011 fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The political rivalry has been coupled with militia infighting that has scarred the capital and driven out thousands of its residents. It has also turned the country's second largest city into a battlefield between Islamist militias and fighters loyal to a renegade army general who vowed to weed them out.
Following a weekslong battle over control of the capital's airport, Islamist militias claimed control of the facility, largely destroyed, and Tripoli.
The umbrella group for Islamist militias calling itself Dawn of Libya said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital controlled by the rival militias, drawing to a close one chapter in a prolonged confrontation between the Islamist-allied militia, largely from the city of Misrata, and the powerful Zintan militia from the western mountains.
The Islamist militias then urged the outgoing parliament to convene to "protect state sovereignty."
On Monday, a Libyan lawmaker and television stations said the Islamist-dominated parliament voted to sack the current interim government of Abdullah al-Thinni, currently residing in the east. The lawmakers voted unanimously to appoint a new "national salvation government" headed by Omar al-Hassi, a university professor.
The lawmaker, who attended the session, said 88 deputies voted for the move. Libyan television station Alharar said 94 lawmakers voted. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled because the parliament was still in closed session.
The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
The outgoing parliament had previously tried to sack al-Thinni. But Libya's constitutional court declared the move unconstitutional.
Following the vote, a security official in Tripoli said gunmen stormed the home of al-Thinni in the capital, apparently searching for documents. The gunmen also stormed the homes of at least two leaders from the Zintan militias.
The power grab in Tripoli Monday coincided with a Cairo meeting of diplomats from countries neighboring Libya where the participants called for an international push to disband the myriad of militias.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told the gathering that the developments in Libya threaten the entire region and other parts of the world.
"The developments in Libya have left an impact we have felt on the security of neighboring countries, with the presence and movement of extremist and terrorist groups whose activists are not only limited to the Libyan territories but also spillover to neighboring countries," he said.
"This can also impact countries outside the region," Shukri said, adding: "All this may push toward different types of interventions in Libyan affairs that we should work to avoid."