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Mar 2, 7:51 AM EST

Libyan parliament names Hifter top army commander

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CAIRO (AP) -- Khalifa Hifter, a veteran general leading a campaign against Islamist militias, has been named the general commander of the armed forces loyal to the internationally-backed government.

Lawmaker Tarek al-Garoushi says that parliament speaker Aqila Issa, in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also promoted Hifter to the highest rank of general on Monday.

Al-Garoushi says the promotion is designed to "unify the ranks of the army" in accordance with "popular demand."

In eastern Libya, Hifter has amassed popular support by battling Islamic militants who have run amok since the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 uprising.

But in the west, where Islamist-allied militias have seized the capital Tripoli and established a rival government, Hifter is despised as a holdover from Gadhafi's reign.

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