TRIPOLI, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Libya’s interim government, under pressure to disarm Tripoli and restore the country after months of civil war, has given regional militias lingering in the capital until late December to hand over security and go home, officials said on Tuesday.
Nearly two months after Muammar Gaddafi was killed, the new government is still unable to impose its authority on the ground, leaving security in the hands of militias who answer only to themselves and often wage turf wars with their rivals.
Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib has met officials from Tripoli’s local council to discuss ways of sending home hundreds of out-of-town fighters who have taken a pseudo-police force in the capital, setting up checkpoints across the city.
“There is a schedule for this process,” Abdul Razzak Buhajar, head of Tripoli local council, told a news conference.
When asked about the timeframe, he said: “In December ... We have to be patient.”
Recent spats of violence have demonstrated that militias remain the biggest threat to Libya’s security despite attempts by the newly formed government to get them under control.
On Tuesday, protesters blocked off several streets in Tripoli, demanding that fighters from other parts of the country pull out of the capital.
“They will not allow any weapons to go in or out of the capital,” Buhajar said. “Vital sites such as airports will be protected by the defence ministry or interior ministry.”
He did not say how the interim government planned to persuade the militiamen to leave, or what would happen if they refused but added there were plans to integrate them in state security forces if they wanted to.
Buhajar said Tripoli residents would hold a rally on Wednesday in the central Martyr’s Square to support initiatives to clear Tripoli of weapons and call for out-of-town fighters to leave.
A government statement quoted Buhajar as saying: “It is anticipated that the demonstration will escalate day by day until Dec. 20. On this day, if militias have not left the city, the public of Tripoli and Libyan government will close the whole city to traffic.”
Buhajar said only armed vehicles belonging to the Interior and Defence Ministries would be allowed to circulate around the city.
Interior Minister Fawzi Abd Al All told Reuters that fully clearing Tripoli of weapons was a “national task” and all ministries, particularly defence, had to take part. He said the process would necessitate “huge preparations”.
“The excess military power should be reduced; the revolutionary checkpoints have to be relocated as many are stationed in civilian and military sites,” he said.
“I believe that the revolutionaries wanted to convey a certain message to certain entities and I believe that the message was conveyed clearly. I believe that this matter will be cleared peacefully.” (Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Maria Golovnina)