October 5, 2011 / 6:19 AM / 7 years ago

Libya army recruits march in capital full of gunmen

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s new rulers on Tuesday unveiled a group of fighters trained to serve in a national army, in a step toward bringing armed groups under central authority in a capital bristling with revolutionary volunteers who ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters celebrate during a graduation ceremony for newly-trained fighters in Tripoli October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

More than 500 new recruits marched behind a military band in Tripoli’s Souq al-Jumaa district at a ceremony attended by a senior military officer to mark the end of their training for service in the national army.

Tripoli hosts several militias claiming the right to secure the city, some from regions which shook off Gaddafi’s rule before the capital fell last month.

The ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) is struggling to form a more inclusive interim government. Some militias do not recognise the NTC’s designated military commander for Tripoli.

The head of the Tripoli Military Council, which claims the authority of the NTC, and a self-appointed local governing body called on Monday for non-Tripoli units to pull heavy weapons from the capital. There are fears that friction between the militias could turn violent.

“I came to see the first graduation from the national army, the Souq al-Jumaa Brigade. I hope it will be a good step to secure Tripoli to end the military presence in the capital,” said Tripoli resident Zohair Mohammed, who attended the ceremony at a horse racing grounds.

The call for fighters from elsewhere to withdraw from the capital came after an anti-Gaddafi fighter announced the formation of a militia to secure Tripoli, a position also claimed by the military council led by Abdulhakim Belhadj, a veteran Islamist foe of Gaddafi.

Belhadj’s rivals view him as a stalking horse for Qatar’s interests in a post-Gaddafi Libya.

The NTC has previously said it would try to direct thousands of militiamen into police forces and ensure militias disarm after securing control of a few pockets to resistance held by Gaddafi loyalists.

Visiting U.S. Republican Senator John McCain called on the NTC last week to move quickly to get the armed groups under control.

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