Libyans keep up pressure for militias to leave Tripoli



TRIPOLI, Imed Lamloum- Hundreds of residents on Friday called on Libyan militias still in Tripoli to follow other groups and withdraw, aiming to keep the momentum going a week after deadly clashes.
The city council and students' union had called for a "large demonstration", with authorities pledging to protect protesters while also urging them not to march on militia-held sites to avoid any repeat of the bloodshed.



Demonstrators carrying banners that read "No to armed groups in Tripoli" gathered outside Al-Quds Mosque in the city centre.
But they were surrounded by police to ensure there was no repetition of violence a week after 46 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in the city's deadliest day since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was overthrown in 2011.
"We demand that the capital be cleansed of all militias," said 41-year-old civil servant Abdelmajid. "Most of them are made up of criminals."
Many of the groups of fighters who helped oust Kadhafi have long rejected calls to disarm or integrate into the armed forces, triggering the frustration of Libyans who once hailed them as heroes.
On Friday, November 15, matters came to a head when members of the Misrata militia fired on demonstrators demanding that they leave, killing several.
In retaliation, members of another militia assaulted the fighters' stronghold, sparking clashes that lasted into the next day and led to the heavy death toll.
Since Sunday, residents of Tripoli have been holding a general strike and daily demonstrations to press their demands.
'Too good to be true'
Some militias have already pulled out, without it being clear exactly why, except for suggestions that they fear being attacked by protesters.
As a result, there are questions over whether the withdrawal is in earnest or just for show.
Former deputy prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagur said at Friday's rally that "we need to verify that these groups have really left... People are suspicious.
"In the next few days we will know if they have really left town or just moved from one place to another."
A woman called Asma wrote on Twitter: "This is too good to be true."
And one Western diplomat said: "We'll need a few days to confirm whether these withdrawals are really genuine."
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan insisted on Thursday that the operation was serious.
"This is not just theatre," he said.
"The decision to evacuate armed groups from the capital will apply to all factions without exception."
Following Kadhafi's fall and the disintegration of the security apparatus, the new government tasked the militias with security, but quickly lost what control they had over them.
Former rebels have banded into militias carving out their own fiefdoms, each with its own ideology and regional allegiance, and are often accused of corruption and rights abuses.
The Misrata brigade was the first to leave Tripoli, pulling out on Monday at the behest of community leaders in their coastal city to the east.
A day later, the government announced plans to remove the militias from the capital and eventually integrate them into the security forces, a long-standing objective.
At the same time, troops and police deployed in Tripoli to a popular welcome.
As the week progressed, militias including three powerful groups from the western city of Zintan and two Islamist groups have also withdrawn.
Most of the militias have handed over to the authorities the sites they occupied, including public buildings, army barracks or farms in the suburbs.
However, it was not immediately clear where they have gone.
A decision adopted in March by the National General Congress -- Libya's parliament and highest political authority -- ordering "illegal armed factions" to evacuate Tripoli fell on deaf ears.
Government forces, who are less organised than the militias and not as well-armed, were unable to enforce the decision.
Meanwhile Libya's restive east, and epicentre of the 2011 uprising, was again the scene of deadly violence on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks in the lawless region.
A tribal chief was killed when gunmen opened fire on his car in Derna, and in second city Benghazi an army officer and his driver escaped a shooting unscathed, security officials said.
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Monday, November 25th 2013
Imed Lamloum
           


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