Reports raise questions about health of Libya’s Haftar

Military commander’s spokesperson says he’s in good health amid reports he is in coma after suffering stroke

Conflicting reports raised questions of the health of Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar. Al Jazeera network reported on Wednesday that Haftar is in a coma at a hospital in Paris after suffering a stroke, but the general’s spokesperson has dismissed the account as fake news, insisting that he is in good health and overseeing military operations in eastern Libya.

Haftar, 75, whose forces have taken most of eastern Libya from Islamist fighters and militants, may run for president in Libya’s upcoming election this year.

French newspaper Le Monde said that Hafter was transferred from Jordan to receive medical care in France. Journalist Huguex Vincent, who writes for French weekly L’express, tweeted on Tuesday that Haftar was admitted to a hospital in Paris for a “serious condition.”

Several officials in Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) denied the reports.

“There’s no truth to the news spreading around about field marshall; he’s in excellent health,” Haftar LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari said.

Still, two anonymous LNA sources told Reuters that Haftar was indeed experiencing health issues.

One high-ranking east Libyan military source told Reuters on Tuesday that Haftar had been flown to Jordan, and would travel on from there to a third country for treatment for a critical health condition.

A second source close to the east Libyan military command said on Wednesday that Haftar was in France, but gave no details on his condition.

Libya’s 218 TV channel, which is supportive of the LNA, reported that Haftar “was undergoing a medical inspection in Paris and that there was no real danger to his health”.

Haftar has for several years been the dominant figure in eastern Libya, and has widely been seen as seeking national power in the oil-rich nation of six million people.

He has presented himself as a scourge of militancy and taken a hardline stance against the Muslim Brotherhood, mirroring the position of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Still, critics accuse Haftar of fuelling armed conflict and committing human rights violations.

Haftar is aligned with a parliament and government that moved to eastern Libya after a major escalation of fighting in the capital, Tripoli, in 2014.

He rejected the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which arrived in Tripoli in 2016 as part of United Nations-led efforts to reunify the country.