Khalifa Haftar, a veteran general and the most powerful figure in eastern Libya, has returned to the eastern city of Benghazi following an extended absence, including reported treatment in a hospital in Paris.
In a televised address filmed at the airport soon after his arrival, he said “I want to reassure you that I am in good health”, adding “I should be addressing you standing up but I am obliged to do so sitting down.”
Photos and video clips posted on social media on Thursday showed Haftar giving a salute as he descended from a private jet, accompanied by uniformed officials of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Touted as a possible future leader of Libya, Haftar was first hospitalised in Jordan before he was admitted at a hospital in Paris, according to reports and Al Jazeera sources.
A former ally of Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar, 75, returned to Libya seven years ago from the US to join the NATO-backed revolution that ended four decades of one-man rule.
After a protracted military campaign in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, he promised to “liberate” the capital Tripoli, which split from the east in 2014.
Elections, which the UN says could be organised by the end of the year despite major obstacles, may provide another route to power. Haftar has cast himself as the person who can bring stability to Libya after years of conflict, ridding the OPEC member of armed groups and reining in migrant smuggling to Europe.
Some of those who have worked with him describe Haftar as a divisive military man with little time for politics. Some also believe he could try to reinstate authoritarian rule and bring more violence to the country by targeting the array of armed groups.