Libya interior ministry takes 70 000 rebels

2012-04-24 18:04

Tripoli - Seventy thousand ex-fighters who waged war against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi  last year are now under the command of the ministry of interior, a Libyan official said on Tuesday.

"The interior ministry has absorbed 70 000 revolutionaries [former rebels] who follow its orders and receive salaries," Omar al-Khadrawi, deputy interior minister, told AFP.

"They help the ministry fight against crime, protect strategic sites, embassies and diplomatic missions," he said, adding that his ministry will soon determine who qualifies for specialised training.

On Tuesday, a group of 160 future policemen boarded a flight to Amman where they will be trained for a period of three months. They are the first batch of 2 216 men due in Jordan this week, according to a ministry spokesperson.

Tripoli and Amman signed an agreement in January mapping out the training of 10 000 former rebels.

Thousands of Libyans turned their backs on work and studies last year to pick up arms against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Six months after Gaddafi  was captured and killed, the majority remain organised into brigades.

In the absence of a strong army or fully functional police force, the interim authorities have had no choice but to tap on these brigades to help maintain security, patrol borders and run detention centres.

Concerns over the proliferation of weapons coupled with periodic deadly clashes between militias have put pressure on the government to re-integrate more than 200 000 former rebels into society.

The interim authorities have repeatedly urged those who do not wish to return to civilian life to come under the command of the defence or interior ministries.

Khadrawi said the government is studying how to best disarm the population, noting that an estimated 250 000 weapons remain on the streets.

Read more on:    libya  |  north africa  |  uprisings

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