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Libyan government to end militia problem "by force" - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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General National Congress vice president Jomaa Atiga speaks to the press in Tripoli on June 9, 2013, hours after Libya's army chief resigned a day after clashes killed 31 people in the eastern city of Benghazi. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA

General National Congress vice president Jomaa Atiga speaks to the press in Tripoli on June 9, 2013, hours after Libya’s army chief resigned a day after clashes killed 31 people in the eastern city of Benghazi. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA

Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Libyan authorities have decided to bring armed militias under the government’s control after a day of clashes in Benghazi. Sources in the Libyan parliament, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government would use force if necessary to end the presence of armed militias in the streets.

The parliament sat until late last night to discuss the security problems in the country. A number of MPs called for the removal of top military officials. Army chief of staff, Yousuf Al-Mangoush, later submitted his resignation to the parliament, which accepted it.

Prime Minister Ali Zaydan has ordered an investigation into Saturday’s clashes in Benghazi which resulted in 31 deaths, including five military personnel. An army spokesman said the chiefs of staff regretted the deaths and were monitoring the situation closely.

The BBC quoted a doctor at Benghazi’s main hospital who said some of the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds to the chest, and that there were six cases of amputations among the injured.

Violent clashes erupted in Benghazi between dozens of protesters and members of an armed group affiliated to the interim government. A security spokesman said the clashes started when protesters gathered on Saturday in front of the headquarters of the Dir’a Libya (Libya Shield) brigade, demanding they disband, vacate the headquarters and hand over their weapons.

The Libyan government is experiencing problems forming professional police and army units. It has so far relied on militias who fought against the Gadhafi regime for border security and to keep oil installations safe.

Benghazi witnessed demonstrations against the presence of armed groups in the city in October last year. These followed the killing of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff at the US consulate in Benghazi in September.

The Libyan government is trying to control the activities of the armed militias after a number of incidents, including the occupation of a number of government ministries. The militias, however, refuse to lay down their weapons.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents in Tripoli have held peaceful protests calling for the ending of all signs of militia presence in the capital. Eyewitnesses said the protesters shouted slogans in support of the government and parliament, and against the militias.

The parliament offered condolences to the families of those killed in the clashes, and called in a statement read by its speaker, on all parties to exercise restraint and put the country’s interests above all else.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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