Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Tripoli security represents red line – Tripoli Revolutionary Council leader | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – At the same time that fighting is raging between Libyan National Transitional Council [NTC] forces and pro-Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte – the last remaining stronghold of the Gaddafi regime in Libya – unexpected clashes also broke out in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. A group of up to 50 armed men appeared in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli, chanting pro-Gaddafi slogans and denouncing the NTC, resulting in a fire-fight breaking out between the pro-Gaddafi loyalists and the Libyan rebels in control of the capital. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from the Libyan capital, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council, Abdullah said that this conflict was “planned” by “remnants of the Gaddafi regime.”

Al-Zintani sought to play down the outbreak of violence in Tripoli and reassure the residents of the Libyan capital regarding their security and safety; however Tripoli residents and activists informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the attempt by pro-Gaddafi loyalists to take to the streets in Tripoli is not the first of its kind.

The NTC stressed that it is in complete control of Tripoli and the surrounding areas, and there is no reason to fear a return to the Gaddafi era. One NTC military source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said the clashes that took place in Tripoli on Friday between armed pro-Gaddafi supporters and rebel forces calls all Libyan revolutionary and military forces and battalions to unite with the NTC forces under a single military chain-of-command, namely under NTC military commander Abdelhakim Belhadj.

However Tripoli Revolutionary Council leader Abdullah al-Zintani told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Tripoli Revolutionary Council had responded to a distress call from Belhadj himself, dispatching security and military reinforcements to the Abu Salim area.

Al-Zintani revealed that they had arrested 8 pro-Gaddafi supporters allegedly responsible for this outbreak of violence which resulted in the death of two Gaddafi supporters and one rebel fighters. He also stressed that regardless of other reports, this represents the first operation of its kind in Tripoli since the Libyan rebels liberated the capital from Gaddafi control in late August.

NTC troops rushed to the Abu Salim district- which remains a center for pro-Gaddafi sentiment and support – to confront the pro-Gaddafi loyalists. Eye-witnesses claim that the two groups exchanged fire using automatic and heavy weaponry.

This surprising outbreak in the heart of Tripoli represents a severe test of the NTC and reveals the fragile military situation in the Libyan capital. This has also raised questions about the rebel military chain-of-command, and just who truly is in charge of the security situation in Tripoli.

Tripoli Revolutionary Council leader Abdullah al-Zintani told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we received a distress call from Abdelhakim Belhadj, the head of the [TNC] military council in Tripoli, to intervene and end this situation [in Abu Salim].” He added “we expected him [Belhadj] to end this conflict, but he asked for our help, and it has become clear that Belhadj is not in charge of any military force [in Tripoli], he just possess political and media power.”

Al-Zintani stressed that “if the rebels followed the instruction of the NTC to leave Tripoli and surrender their arms, Gaddafi would have been able to return in light of this ambiguous political and military situation.”

Al-Zintani also revealed that the Tripoli Revolutionary Council forces are now patrolling the Abu Salim district – which was famous in the past as a center for pro-Gaddafi supporters – adding that “if the residents will not cooperate with us, we will have to take a different position.”

He stressed that “the security of Tripoli and that of its residents represent a red line that no party must be allowed to transgress, and we will not stand idly by in the face of any attempt to undermine Libyan security and stability.”

Al-Zintani also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that 15 Gaddafi supporters had been arrested last week for trying to organize a pro-Gaddafi demonstration in in Tripoli. He stressed that the attempts by the remnants of the Gaddafi regime to breach security will continue until the current debate regarding the military and security leadership of the Libyan revolutionaries [in Tripoli] has been settled.

The head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council said that the media had exaggerated the clashes that took place in Tripoli on Friday, dealing with this in a sensationalist manner. He said “we confirm that there is no room or space for Gaddafi or his supporters here [in Tripoli], the [Gaddafi] regime is over and the rebels will not show any mercy to the remnants of the Gaddafi regime, especially if they continue to seek to incite confusion, chaos, and sedition.”

NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil had sought to persuade the Libyan rebel battalions and militias in Tripoli to unite under the command of Abdelhakim Belhadj; however the majority refused to comply with this, questioning why Belhadj – a former Emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – should be granted this command.

Al-Zintani told Asharq Al-Awsat that the situation in Tripoli is under control and that the security measures in and around Tripoli have been intensified. He said that he believes that the pro-Gaddafi supporters received instructions to rise up in Tripoli via Syrian-based “Al-Rai” TV.

Al-Zintani accused well-known TV presenters Hamzah al-Tuhami – one of the most prominent Gaddafi supporters in the media – of instigating this operation via a program he produces for al-Rai TV, which is owned by former Iraqi MP Misha’an al-Jabouri.

AL-Zintani told Asharq Al-Awsat “I do not know why they love Gaddafi so much. Is this just poverty, or do they believe that Gaddafi is still capable of returning to power in Libya?” He stressed that any belief that Gaddafi could return to power in Libya is “pure nonsense” and “nothing more than an absurd joke.”