Western Libya militias form federation, challenge NTC

Western Libya militias form federation, challenge NTC

TRIPOLI - The Associated Press
Western Libya militias form federation, challenge NTC

Some 100 militias say they formed a new federation to press the government. AP photo

Representatives of about 100 militias from western Libya said Feb. 13 they had formed a new federation to prevent infighting and allow them to press the country’s new government for further reform.

The move was a blow to the National Transitional Council, which helped lead the eight-month uprising against longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi that ended with his capture and death in October. The NTC has struggled for months to stamp its authority on the country, and has largely failed to decommission or bring under its control the hundreds of militias that fought in the war.

‘We won’t give up arms’
Ibrahim al-Madani, a commander whose brigade joined the new federation, said the fighters would not give up their arms to what they considered a corrupt government. “We didn’t turn against Gadhafi but against a corrupt regime,” al-Madani told reporters at a news conference. “We will not lay down our weapons until we are assured that the revolution is on the right track.” The leader of the federation, Col. Mokhtar Fernana, criticized the NTC body in charge of integrating revolutionary fighters, accusing it of taking in many men who had fought for Gadhafi. “This committee is an attempt to hijack the revolution,” Fernana said.

NTC officials did not attend the announcement ceremony. Some commanders who have joined the new federation said that it has yet to define its relationship to the NTC’s Defense Ministry, which is supposed to have command over all armed groups. They also said they would establish a united command, a move unlikely to succeed, given the fierce independence of many of the fighters. Since the war’s end, revolutionary militias have frequently clashed over control of weapons depots.

Also Feb. 13, the NTC announced the allocation of seats for the country’s first, post-revolution parliament, to be elected in June. The west, including Tripoli and the Nafusa mountains, will have 102 seats; the east, including Benghazi where the anti-Gadhafi uprising began, will have 60; the south will have 29; and central cities including Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte will have 9.