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Renegade Libyan general leading offensive against Islamists welcome backing from protesters

A renegade Libyan general leading a week-long military offensive against Islamists dominating the country's political scene and their militia allies has welcomed street protests in support of his campaign.

Gen. Khalifa Hifter says the protests give him a "popular mandate" to fight terrorism.

Hifter's statement was broadcast Saturday on Libya's Alahrar TV.

He says his forces will not return to their barracks until terrorism is defeated and called on Libyans to keep up their support for his campaign.

Thousands rallied in Tripoli, the eastern city of Benghazi and other Libyan cities on Friday in support of Hifter's offensive.

His spokesman, Mohammed Hegazi, called on troops who have not yet joined the campaign dubbed "Operation Dignity" to do so within 48 hours or "face penalties." He did not elaborate.