Over the last five days, Libyans across the country have been consumed by reports about the health status of Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, the general commander of Eastern Libya’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), after it was reported on Monday that he had been airlifted to France in critical condition.
The Libyan public and domestic media resorted to rumours after LNA spokesman and a number of its senior officials had categorically denied reports on Mr Hifter’s illness. According to these rumours, he is either suffering from cancer, stroke or a heart failure.
Last night, reports by media outlets aligned with Mr Hifter’s Islamist opponents claimed that he was “clinically dead”, adding that there was already a behind-the-scenes race to succeed him. According to the same sources, the line-up of Mr Hifter’s possible successors includes general Abd al-Salam al-Hassi chief of LNA’s Operations Command, general Wanees Abukhamada chief of LNA’s Special Forces, general Abd al-Razigh Nadhouri LNA’s Chief of Staff, and his eldest son, Khalid.
The coming hours and days will be crucial as the LNA finds itself under growing pressure to provide clarity on his health.