Tripoli residents want NTC fighters out

2011-09-30 07:54

Tripoli - More than a month since revolutionary forces seized the Libyan capital, the heavy thud of anti-aircraft guns and the crackle of automatic weapon fire still echoes across the city, and bands of young fighters in pickup trucks bristling with heavy weapons cruise the streets.

Revolutionary brigades from across the country swept into Tripoli late last month in a stunning offensive, effectively ending Muammar Gaddafi’s nearly 42-year rule and sending the long-time dictator into hiding.

While Tripoli's residents are still revelling in their newfound freedoms, they are also beginning to grow weary of the continued presence of hundreds of armed fighters in the city.

The growing anger spurred locals to set up the Tripoli Support Group, which is now petitioning Libya's new rulers, known as the National Transitional Council, to get a handle on the revolutionary brigades in the city.

"We have witnessed negative behaviour from the revolutionaries in Tripoli, and the NTC has fallen short because it hasn't given the local council any authority or support to rein in the revolutionaries," said Mohammed Shabbu, a businessman who helped set up the Tripoli Support Group.

Shabbu is drafting a letter to the NTC calling on it to order all outside revolutionary brigades to leave Tripoli. He warned that their long-term stay has sapped some of the support residents feel for them.

"Sometimes you ask a young child, 'Do you like the revolutionaries?' The child will answer, 'No, they scare me,'" he said.

Mixed messages

The Tripoli Support Group was founded by Sadeg Zaroug, a 63-year old architect. He said the group boasts more than 100 members and aims to act as a watchdog over the NTC and the local council.

"We want to observe the excesses of the NTC and local councils," Zaroug said.

Revolutionary fighters from across the country flooded Tripoli during the capital's fall, rolling in from Misrata, Benghazi and Zintan in their spray-painted, pockmarked pickup trucks outfitted with anti-aircraft guns.

But then they stayed, setting up bases in parks and Gaddafi’s old homes and beach houses, patrolling neighbourhoods in search of weapons and Gaddafi loyalists, usually without direct orders to do so from the military council or field commanders.

Now, they clog the city streets downtown, sticking out in the bumper to bumper traffic, the young men sporting revolutionary-chic - bushy beards, red berets and fatigues. They position their AK-47s so the barrel sticks out the window, and occasionally fire a few rounds skyward.

Since Gaddafi’s fall, visiting US and European officials have urged the NTC to assert its authority over the revolutionary brigades and rein them in. The NTC, which is struggling to establish a new government, has publicly vowed to do so, but also has given mixed messages to the fighters.

Last month, NTC head Mustafa Abdel-Jalil urged brigades from outside Tripoli to clear out of the city and leave security to Tripoli's citizens and brigades. But the following day, pressured by the revolutionary brigades who felt insulted, he backtracked and asked the brigades to stay on and secure the city.

A spokesperson for the revolutionary military, Col Ahmed Bani, dismissed concerns about the fighters, saying it was too early to talk about disarming revolutionaries.

Losing patience

"As long as Gaddafi is free, the young men will hold on to their arms and it will be impossible to take the arms away from them," Bani told the AP. "But when Gaddafi is caught they will return to their normal jobs and let go of the arms."

But more than a month since Tripoli fell, Shabbu, 40, and other Tripoli residents are losing patience.

"We owe a lot to the revolutionaries and won't forget their efforts, but it's time for them to leave our city and leave us to police it," he said.

Shabbu said the Tripoli Support Group drafted a request to Abdel-Jalil and will hold a protest on Friday to impose an order for brigades from outside Tripoli to formally leave the city with their heavy weapons.

While he supported the decision to keep the revolutionaries around when Tripoli was falling, Shabbu said now that the city was stabilising, the armed revolutionaries were acting inappropriately.

"They are shooting chaotically, fighting over the location of their bases, raiding homes with no warrants and for no real reasons," Shabbu said.

He said that Tripoli needed a civilian police service, complete with a new patrol cars, logo and uniforms. "People need to see that the security is run by people different from Gaddafi’s era so they can love the police as their new protectors," Shabbu said.

  • Libertador - 2011-09-30 08:06

    Hahaha, what a joke. Gaddafi did say that this so called revolution was a charade after all. THE GREEN REVOLUTION LIVES ON!!

      zaatheist - 2011-09-30 09:42

      Rarely have I read such a simplistic view of things from someone over the age of 5.. What I don't get is how anyone can believe this nonsense yet still manage to dress themselves in the morning.

      Anton - 2011-09-30 09:55

      Libertador, Your comments are getting stranger by the day. How come you HATE the Libyan people soo much ??? If you just want to get rid of some of your anti Western feelings, there is good news for you; The African Autumn has started, so there will be plenty opportunity to regular exercise your right to free speech. The Libyans, after 42 years, have now got this right. For them the nightmare of 42 years of tyranny is over.

      letsee - 2011-09-30 09:59

      Libertador, you are confusing the issues. You have to wait till normalcy returns and only then you can comment.

      bethlehemslouch - 2011-09-30 10:39

      We must have faith in the self-determination of the Jamahiriya, which the colonialists do not understand. God willing the Brother Leader returns to Tripoli soon and the NATO terrorists have to answer for their crimes of genocide. God bless Muammar Gaddafi Allahu Akbar!

      MobBim - 2011-09-30 12:04

      Well said Liberator... we all know many soul are lost because of false information received from the media but libyan people understand the struggle more anyone even that Nato and the people who call themself rebels tried very hard to destroy Libya the stay constant... even after centuries and decade the struggle will never end until people are free from western colonism.. innocent life's are being compromised just for sake of evil poor devil is playing dirty games with people....

      Anton - 2011-09-30 18:32

      Libertador, There is something that is very puzzling, and maybe you would be so kind to give here some clearity. As we all know , these gaddafies were for the past ten years, EXTREMELY PRO WESTERN. Without any doubt gaddafi and his family were more pro Western than any other political family in Africa These gaddafies just could not soak up enough of Europe. That was off course untill February 2011, when they realized their reign of terror was coming to an end. And than quickly changed from PRO WESTERN to ANTI WESTERN, as this would obviously give them more support outside of Libya. Now what would be facinating to know, is the following; Did you ALSO in February 2011, change from pro Western to Anti Western. BECAUSE IF YOU DID NOT, YOU MUST HAVE HATED THIS gaddafi FAMILY IMMENSLY DURING THE PAST TEN YEARS!!!!!!1

      slg - 2011-09-30 20:09

      Even today, after the shocking, heart-wrenching racism and brutality of the Nazi regime, there are still Nazi supporters in the world. Very few, granted, but present nonetheless. The same with Gadhafi supporters. Only several hundred or a thousand or two remain.

  • Muenda - 2011-09-30 08:56

    Gaddafi is planting new factionalism through the so called Tripoli Support Group. What do u think, I think You cannot take down a generally known violent regime in 7 month. PERIOD

  • Admire - 2011-09-30 10:30

    they are the new army so they cant leave .... they just need to stop the wild firing of arms thats all

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