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Newly elected Libyan lawmakers meet amid chaos

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 7:24 p.m.
 

BENGHAZI, Libya — More than three-quarters of Libya's newly elected parliament met for the first time on Saturday in a city chosen by a prominent anti-Islamist politician, likely signaling a swing against Islamists and extremist militias amid violence not encountered since the 2011 civil war that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The lawmakers met in Tobruk, the site of a World War II battle, as rival militias battled for control over the international airport in the capital, Tripoli, with their fire setting more oil depots ablaze. Meanwhile in Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi, forces loyal to a renegade general were dealt a heavy blow when the Islamist militias overran several army bases and took control of the city.

The violence, which has killed more than 200 and wounded nearly 900 in weeks of fighting, has sent diplomats, thousands of foreign workers and Libyans fleeing for their lives and presents the greatest challenge for a country still largely at war with itself.

Abu Bakr Baiera — the anti-Islamist lawmaker who presided over the gathering of 152 lawmakers in Tobruk, a city in eastern Libya near the Egyptian border — decided to postpone the official opening until more lawmakers arrive.

The presence of that many members of parliament, all elected as independents, suggests most lawmakers are not affiliated to the Islamist factions that dominated Libya's outgoing interim parliament or support the Islamic extremist-led militia campaigns in Tripoli or Benghazi. The last session suffered from political infighting as well as violent attacks in which lawmakers were kidnapped and parliament itself besieged.

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