First Published: 2012-11-02


Angry gunmen besiege Libya assembly


Gunmen backed by heavy weapons vent their frustration at new PM's cabinet lineup, alleged links of some ministers to Gathafi's regime.


Middle East Online

By Dominique Soguel - TRIPOLI

Fledgling democracy

Nearly 100 Libyan gunmen backed by heavy weapons kept the national assembly under siege Thursday in protest at the new premier's cabinet lineup and alleged links of some ministers to Moamer Gathafi's regime.

The protest which erupted on Wednesday night has drawn dozens of former rebels from Tripoli and other cities, some of them formally affiliated with the defence and interior ministries.

"What is happening and the scale of what is going on is very grave," said Othman Ben Sassi, an official linked to the national assembly, which was not in session on Thursday.

He said ex-rebels were occupying the assembly and other official buildings.

Traffic leading to the assembly and the adjacent Rixos hotel was blocked by a dozen 4x4 vehicles and pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns among other heavy weapons, said an AFP journalist at the scene.

"We are demonstrating against the national assembly and its chosen government because it is made up of remnants of Moamer Gathafi's regime," said Abdel Jalil Maziq, 42, a native of the western city of Misrata.

"The world helped us overthrow the tyrant and now here we are stuck with remnants of his regime," he added.

The complaints centred on members of the new prime minister's cabinet, which was approved by the assembly on Wednesday in a session that was cut short by the protests and mounting security concerns.

The main ministers to have sparked controversy are those of health, foreign affairs, international cooperation, higher education and religious affairs.

"These five are the most problematic," said rights activist Abdelmenam al-Hor, stressing they had played a role in upholding the former regime and should be removed.

Others said nine ministries were in dispute, including the strategic portfolio of oil.

Activists Bashir Rajab said he had come armed with a formal letter of complaint because "people who were with Kadhafi and participated in promoting his green book (manifesto) need to be isolated from the political process."

Tempers flew high with some fighters threatening and shoving the press.

An old woman pleaded: "Please calm down, we want the country to move on."

Many of the gunmen redirecting traffic away from the assembly also complained there were no former rebels in the new government and that their salaries had not been paid.

"It's been seven months since I was paid. These people are stealing our money," charged the commander of a brigade from Misrata who declined to be named.

Gunmen were also present at the luxury Rixos hotel, streaming in casually and passing their pistols through the metal detectors. Some of them, dressed in suits, said they had come to negotiate and submit their demands.

"There are about 20 revolutionaries meeting with the prime minister to discuss their objections," said Colonel Jumaa al-Meshri of a Tripoli-based brigade.

The spokesman of the assembly could not be reached for comment but a security official said there had been "no orders" from the authorities to intervene until now.

Libya's national assembly gave its approval on Wednesday to a 30-member cabinet presented by prime minister-designate Ali Zeidan, weeks after rejecting his predecessor's line-up.

The prime minister and his cabinet still have to be sworn in.

Protesters who barged into the assembly on Tuesday derailed a first session on the cabinet, which was hastily approved in a Wednesday vote-of-confidence as demonstrations erupted outside the building.

The demonstrations coupled with the lack of discipline of former rebels nominally under the state's control underline the fragility of Libya's transition to democracy a year after Gathafi was overthrown.


Iran nuclear deal with six world powers gets parliament approval

Libya rival factions reject UN-proposed peace deal

Al-Nusra Front urges jihadists in Caucasus to target Russia

Wave of violence escalates in Jerusalem

Britain abandons Saudi penal system bid

Jerusalem suffers bloodiest day in wave of rising unrest

Ankara attacks raise Kurdish party's with Erdogan

German anti-Islam protesters demand Merkel resign

Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking ‘third intifada’

'Political coup' in Iraq Kurdistan as Barzani clings to power

Yemen PM meets President amid reports of growing differences

Libya factions reject UN-proposed unity government

Algeria orders closure of private TV over 'subversive' interview

Under Russia air cover, Syria regime fights ‘fiercest clashes’ with rebels

EU asks Russia to ‘cease’ air strikes on moderate rebels in Syria

Russian air force hit 53 targets in Syria in last 24 hours

Egypt court orders release of Mubarak sons

Iraq probing reports IS chief injured in air strike

Kurdish militia, Arab rebels join forces in Syria

Saudi to triple umrah visas

Britain urged to accept more Syrian refugees

Thousands vent their anger against Erdogan

Putin meets Saudi Defence Minister on Syria

Barzani’s party asks opposition members to leave Arbil

Lessons from second intifada: Palestinian leaders seek to keep lid on clashes

Iran issues verdict on Washington Post correspondent

Iran lawmakers give partial nod to nuclear deal

Russia rules out Syria ground operation

Iran ‘successfully’ tests new long-range missile

Is Russia using cluster bombs in Syria?

Iraq air force ‘hits’ convoy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Iran holds funeral for senior commander killed in Syria

Pregnant woman, two-year-old child die in Israel deadly strike on Gaza

Ankara bombings exacerbate climate of mistrust in Turkey

Thousands take to streets to demand departure of Barzani

Qaeda in Yemen executes four on suspicion of sorcery

Egypt agrees to buy two Mistral warships from France

Israel struggles to contain spreading unrest as death toll rises

'Terrorist' attack kills at least 86 people in Ankara

PKK Kurdish rebels declare ‘state of inactivity’

Bashir twists knife in Sudan wound as flawed dialogue kicks off

Syria Assad forces advance with Russia air support

Jordan parliament accuses Israel of 'state terrorism'

World leaders urge Libya rivals to sign long-awaited peace deal

Nobel Peace Prize boosts pluralistic democracy in Tunisia