BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - A self-declared government set up by an armed group that seized the Libyan capital in August has taken over the websites of the state administration and the national oil company, adding to confusion over who is running the country.
With Libya’s official government and parliament now operating from towns hundreds of miles east of Tripoli, the armed group, from the western city of Misrata, that has seized ministry buildings in the capital now controls their websites.
The website of Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni - who now sits with his cabinet in the eastern city of Bayda - shows the picture of the man the Misrata rebels have declared as prime minister, Omar al-Hasi, and lists the names of his team.
The group, which calls itself the National Salvation government, has also seized the website of the National Oil Corp. Next to tender offers, the website features the picture of the self-declared government’s oil minister.
Libya’s North and West African neighbours and Western powers fear the conflict between the two rival governments could drag the OPEC member into civil war.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after meeting with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dairi in Paris on Tuesday, pledged continued U.S. support to Libya’s official government and reiterated his opposition to outside intervention in the country, a senior State Department official said.
Thinni’s government - recognised by the United Nations - has relocated to Bayda, and the elected House of Representatives is now based in Tobruk, even further east, near the Egyptian border.
Last month, the United Nations launched talks aimed at solving the crisis by bringing together members of the House of Representatives and Misrata lawmakers who have boycotted the assembly since it convened in August.
The talks have not taken in armed factions from Misrata or a rival militia allied to the western city of Zintan who battled Misrata forces in Tripoli for more than a month over the summer.
But diplomats hope that since Misrata members from the house are indirectly linked to a rival parliament that has been set up in Tripoli, the talks will start a broader political dialogue.
The fluid situation in Tripoli has been exacerbated by a separate conflict between pro-government forces fighting Islamist fighters in the main eastern city of Benghazi, home to several state oil firms.
Three members of an irregular force commanded by a defected general but still allied to the army were killed on Tuesday by three roadside bombs near the airport, an area which Islamists have been trying to take, army sources said.
The airport is one of the last government-held areas in Benghazi after the Islamists overran several army camps in August.
Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Elumami in Benghazi and Matt Spetalnick in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich