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Armed Rebels Seize Libya’s Intelligence Department | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view of an oil refinery in Libya’s northern town of Ras Lanuf. Photograph: Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images

Cairo – Armed men in Libya, loyalist to Libyan Fighting Group, controlled the country’s General Intelligence Department after six years of battles between Muslim Brotherhood and the group.

The department contains the database of all passports, entry and exit movement of Libyans and non-Libyans into and out of the country. In addition, it holds a huge archive of all extremist groups, politicians, spies, and convicts of different crimes.

The Libyan Fighting Group hasn’t claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Three officers at the General Intelligence Department told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the attack was led by the leader of Libyan Fighting Group. Two-month earlier, head of presidential council decided to include the intelligence within the jurisdiction of the council while maintaining its hierarchy including its officer in charge Colonel Bashir Lamin. Lamin had been in office since Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime.

No source at the presidential council was available for comment.

A senior official said that the security system contains information about Libya, passports, and the entry/exit system of the country. He added that all data are kept in the 5-storey building close to the government’s building, formerly known as the Internal Security building.

A former official during Qaddaffi’s regime warned of the consequences the attack may have on future of Sarraj and presidential council.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that while everyone is concerned about the fight in oil refineries between Qaeda-affiliated groups and army, Qaeda wing in Tripoli attacked the Intelligence Department.

He added that this is part of armed group’s strategy to control Tripoli and banish the presidential council leading to the formation of a new government led by Khalifa al-Ghuweil.

According to the source, extremists in Tripoli granted thousands of foreigners the Libyan nationality. He suggested that the reason behind attacking the building may be to destroy the papers that determine their actual nationalities.

The group that first targeted the building was composed of 20 armed men, five vehicles, and two armored military vehicles, according to information security officer.

He explained that the militants fired arms in the air and forced employees to vacate the building, yet some workers refused to leave which prompted the militants to ask for reinforcements.

The officer added that the leader used to live in Ireland and is a known supporter of the National Salvation Government.

He confirmed that no one was hurt during the attack and the militias then blocked the gates of the building with the two armored vehicles.

Intelligence Department is one of the most important buildings that haven’t been affected by the ongoing battles and it contains 700 employee and officer. The facility has 11,000 employees all over Libya.

Another officer said that since toppling Gaddafi, Muslim Brotherhood and Libyan Fighting Group have been fighting for the control over this building. He added that officers agreed that they will not allow anyone other than a governmental authority to have control over the intelligence building.

The officer also said that they met with Sarraj and the presidential council, being internationally recognized, asking them to include Intelligence Department under their control.

Earlier this year, Sarraj issued an order to include Intelligence Department with the presidential guard. This decision was frowned upon by Brotherhood and Libyan Fighting Group and thus they occupied the building.

The source said Libya’s whole archive about any person is now within the control of the group amid fears that they might delete what they want and add false information about any citizen.

The officer pointed out that during Gaddafi’s ruling, intelligence security gathered information about every aspect of Libya’s borders and the new development could pose a threat on the movement of people from and into the country. He added that they may even issue passports for non-Libyans.