Struggle between ex-rebels agitates violence in Libya

Struggle between ex-rebels agitates violence in Libya

Struggle between ex-rebels agitates violence in Libya

Soldiers march during a military parade by the Liberation Army to commemorate the establishment of Libyan National Army in Benghazi on Dec 8. REUTERS photo

Gunmen tried to kill the head of the Libyan army Dec. 10 in a bold daylight attack in the country’s capital, setting off hours of intense gunbattles along the main highway to the airport.

Assailants in Tripoli also attacked one of Libya’s largest military bases. 

The gunmen were believed to be from renegade groups of former rebel fighters. The violence deepens concerns about unity among the ex-rebels, many of whom remain heavily armed, while the police and military struggle to restructure their forces after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.

Military officials said revolutionary fighters from the western mountain town of Zintan were likely behind the violence. The military spokesman said no one in the convoy was harmed and soldiers arrested the two gunmen, who are in military custody for questioning. Minutes later, a second army convoy heading down the same road was ambushed, apparently by the same group of gunmen at another phony checkpoint.

 Soldiers firing AK-47 rifles wounded two gunmen, el-Shibahy said. A gunfight erupted near Tripoli international airport in which two people were wounded Dec. 10, a Libyan army official and a former rebel said. Army official Samy Kamuka said the firefight erupted when a group of former rebels of the Zintan brigade clashed with former rebels from Tripoli. But a fighter from the Zintan brigade said it was members of the national army who attacked his unit near the airport.

Libya’s new rulers said Dec. 10 that they are ready to forgive the forces of slain dictator Gadhafi. “In Libya we are able to absorb all. Libya is for all,” the National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Tripoli as he launched a national reconciliation conference organized by the NTC.

 Meanwhile, senior figures in Libya’s new leadership have written a letter to the United Nations asking it to release funds still frozen three months after the country’s civil war ended, the central bank chief said Dec. 10. When a rebellion broke out in February against the rule of Gadhafi, the U.N. Security Council froze Libyan assets estimated at $150 billion.

U.N. member states have doubts whether the new Libyan was united and cohesive enough to be trusted with the cash. Frustration at the delay has been growing inside Libya, where the interim government says it urgently needs the cash to pay the wages of public sector workers and to start re-building state institutions.