Libya's vow to rein in militias is immediately challenged (+video)
The Libyan government promised to bring under control or disband all militias, but within hours of the announcement, one group threatened to blow up the de facto government headquarters.
The Libyan government said Saturday that all of Libya’s militias would be brought under government control or forced to disband within 48 hours, but was quickly challenged.
“We are disbanding all armed groups that do not fall under the authority of the government,” said President of the General National Congress (GNC) Mohammed Magarief. “We are also banning the use of violence and carrying of weapons in public places. It is also illegal to set up checkpoints.”
Within hours, however, the government faced its first challenge from some of its insubordinate security forces and the extra-judicial militias.
On Saturday afternoon Libya’s Tripoli Rixos hotel was stormed by members of the Supreme Security Council (SSC) – an amalgamation of security forces which fall under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry – who threatened to blow it up. The Rixos Hotel serves as a de facto headquarters for the Libyan government.
The SSC men were angered by the lack of support they had received from the defense ministry following fierce clashes between the SSC and alleged Gadhafi loyalists in the town of Brak in central Libya.
Clashes between the two groups started on Wednesday after SSC members tried to arrest a number of Gadhafi sympathizers who had been celebrating Gadhafi’s “Fateh Revolution Day” on Sept. 1.
Many of the SSC members are Salafists and the group is said to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood
In the arrest attempts they shot dead the sister of one sympathizer as they tried to arrest her brother at the family home. During the melee six people, mostly SSC members, were killed. There was a lull in the fighting on Thursday but on Friday deadlier clashes broke out again with the death of another 16 SSC members and the wounding of 50.
During the week preceding the bloody confrontations, tensions had been building in the town following the alleged mistreatment of locals by the SSC.
After running low on ammunition, the SSC men withdrew from Brak and returned to Tripoli with the bodies of their comrades. They then stormed the Rixos Hotel after claiming that Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel Al and Defense Minister Osama Juwaily had refused to provide them with weapons, more ammunition and ambulances despite promises made by the defense ministry.