Jalil speaks out against militia power

2012-03-19 10:14

Tripoli - The head of Libya's interim government said on Sunday that militias should not control government buildings or institutions, speaking on a day that clashes between a powerful militia and Tripoli residents killed at least one person.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told The Associated Press that the country's many militias must be disarmed and said his government does not want them in control of state facilities.

His plea could not be backed up by action. The central government in Libya has proved incapable of governing or protecting the country's vital institutions since the capture and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October.

With the collapse of central authority in Libya, militias and tribes have been acting on their own, exacting revenge on foes and enforcing security in their areas with little co-ordination or accountability to the Tripoli government.

In Tripoli a powerful militia from Libya's western mountains is in control of the country's main international airport. The former rebels from Zintan, well armed and well trained, are in charge of airport security in the absence of a fully fledged police or military force.

The militias, most of them made up of former rebels, have sparred to keep control of their territory and centers of power.

Zintan militia commander Mohammed el-Rebay said one of his fighters was killed Sunday in a gunfight with residents of Tripoli's Abu Salim district. The neighbourhood was once loyal to Gaddafi.

He said the two sides fired automatic rifles at each other. It was not immediately clear why the clash erupted.

It ended quickly when the district's own militia leaders negotiated a cease-fire with the Zintan gunmen, according to the head of Abu Selim's military council, Mohammed Abu-Gheniya.

The Zintan militia took control of a school in the neighbourhood in August, when Tripoli was overrun by the rebels. The school was turned into a military-style base.

The government estimates that over 200 000 people in Libya are armed. It has attempted a number of schemes, including offering people jobs in exchange for handing over their weapons or offering to buy their weapons, in order to disarm the militias. So far the offers have shown few results.

- AP

Read more on:    mustafa abdul-jalil  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa
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