Libya's most powerful military leader reportedly suffered a stroke this week — and no one can confirm whether he is dead or alive.
Local media has reported General Khalifa Haftar's death, while sources close to him insist he is recovering. If the former is true, it could mean a renewal of violence and a power struggle that could hit the OPEC country's oil output and create new opportunities for extremist groups like the Islamic State militant group.
Often described as the oil-rich state's "most powerful warlord," Khaftar, who heads the powerful but internally fractured Libyan National Army (LNA), has been a stabilizing force in a country wracked by civil war since longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Many fear that his absence could usher in the kind of power vacuum and chaos that followed Gaddafi's death.
Haftar effectively controls eastern Libya, including the "oil crescent" in the Gulf of Sirte that holds four major ports that comprise the lion's share of Libya's oil exports. The 75-year-old general, who holds American citizenship, was formerly a Gaddafi ally but returned to Libya in 2011, after years in the U.S., to join the NATO offensive that toppled the dictator.