Assassination Pushes Libya Towards Civil War Two Years after
Fighting rages in Benghazi as Tripoli braces for fallout from
the kidnapping of prime minister Ali Zaidan
By Chris Stephen in Tripoli
Clearing House - "The
Libya marks the second anniversary of the death of Muammar
Gaddafi with the country on the brink of a new civil war and
fighting raging in the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of
its Arab spring revolution.
Violence between radical militias and regular forces broke out
on Friday night and continued yesterday, while the capital
Tripoli is braced for fallout from the kidnapping earlier this
month of prime minister Ali Zaidan. Federalists in Cyrenaica,
home to most of Libya's oil, open their own independent
parliament in Benghazi this week, in a step that may herald the
breakup of the country.
For months, radical militias and regular forces in Benghazi have
fought a tit-for-tat war. Last week two soldiers had their
throats slit as they slept in an army base. But Friday's killing
of Libya's military police commander, Ahmed al-Barghathi, shot
as he left a mosque, has became the trigger for wider violence.
Hours after an assassination branded a "heinous act" by US
ambassador Deborah Jones, armed units stormed the Benghazi home
of a prominent militia commander, Wissam Ben Hamid, with guns
Fighting continued into the night, with army units heading for
the home of a second militia commander, Ahmed Abu Khattala,
indicted by the US for the killing of US ambassador Chris
Stevens last year. There, they were turned back by powerful
"There's fighting everywhere, checkpoints everywhere, I've moved
my wife and children to somewhere safe," said one Benghazi
businessman, Mohammed, who declined to give his second name.
Ben Hamid went on live television to insist he had no role in
the killing of al-Barghathi, and vowed reprisals against those
who destroyed his home.
Libya's militias are in the spotlight as never before, in a
country racked by violence and economic stagnation. Zaidan has
blamed the Revolutionaries Control Room, headquarters for the
biggest militia – Libya Shield – for his kidnapping 10 days ago,
promising harsh measures once the Eid religious holiday week
Shield forces deployed in the capital denied staging the
abduction, but their units were this weekend fortifying their
positions in fear of attack.
The trigger for this spiralling violence was the arrest two
weeks ago by Delta Force commandos of al-Qaida suspect, Anas al
Liby, from his Tripoli home. That arrest has polarised opinion
between supporters and opponents of Zeidan, and Nato, which
bombed the rebels to victory in the 2011 Arab spring, has found
itself in the hot seat over plans to train a new government
army. Britain is to join the US and Italy in training Libyan
army cadres at a base in Cambridgeshire.
Guardian News and Media Limited
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