Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya: Security Concerns Grow in Benghazi

Tripoli — A bomb exploded Sunday night (December 30th) outside the headquarters of the public prosecutor in Benghazi.

"Initial evidence suggests the device was a suitcase packed with high yield explosives (TNT)," an investigator at the scene told AFP, adding that there were no casualties.

The terror attack came just a day after senior Libyan officials visited Benghazi to unveil a security plan for the restive eastern city.

Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail, army chief Youssef al-Mangoush and other senior officials met with local leaders where they detailed plans to confiscate weapons and restore order, Libya Herald reported.

The latest plan follows talks last Wednesday in Tripoli between Interior Minister Shuwail and Mahmoud Buraziza, head of the Benghazi Municipal Council.

At a joint press conference, the interior minister said authorities had drawn up a plan identifying all army and police units and that any other brigade would be considered illegal.

Shuwail also appealed to members of the now-disbanded Supreme Security Committee to join the police to secure Libyan cities.

The minister highlighted the important role of municipal council, civil society organisations, dignitaries, media and sheikhs in establishing security, stability, and raising awareness about the sensitivity of current stage in Libya and the need to support the security institution. He urged all parties to exercise self-restraint, open the door for dialogue, and shoulder their responsibility in building the state of law and institutions.

Libyan authorities also met with leaders of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.

"Such talks were fruitful and meaningful, and we exchanged views and agreed on a lot of issues," Shuwail said.

As to peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins, he said, "These are a part of the rights of expression provided they don't lead to chaos or sabotage or be exploited by anyone to undermine public interests."

In his turn, the head of Benghazi municipal council stressed "the importance of extending bridges of communication between the council and the interior ministry to enrich dialogue between all parties in town".

Mahmoud Buraziza confirmed the Benghazi municipal council's support for the Interior Ministry's security plan, especially the integration of the Supreme Security Committee into the police force.

Thousands of Libyans marched in Benghazi on Friday to demand that former rebels disband rogue militias and join the security forces.

"Our demands are: dissolve all militias and make their members individually enter the army or police force," activist and law student Bilal Bettamer told AFP. Banners read: "We want a unified army" and "no more assassinations".

The city has been rocked by numerous attacks on security institutions in recent months, including the bombing of the car of Salah Abu Haliga, commander of the mobile force in Benghazi. No one was injured when his car was blown up opposite his house.

In addition to the security issues in Benghazi, the Libyan government has also had to face demonstrations at key economic institutions across the country.

Sit-ins were recently staged at al-Sharara oilfield in southern Libya, at the Tobruk oil port, and the Zueitina oil and gas port, and in other fields as well. The demonstrations at petrol plants have cost Libya $50 million a day.

"The protestors should have staged their sit-ins at squares and not at production sites which are important for the Libyan economy. This makes us lose millions, affects the reputation of security, and turns away foreign companies," oil engineer Ali al-Gheryani said.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Awad Barasi said last week that the government would not give in to "blackmail", adding that it would take "all necessary actions to prevent any harm to Libya, its security or stability".

"The demands are fair," commented Nahla Bin Mahmoud.

"But I think we must act in a different way," she added, "so demands can be communicated to the government, which can then meet those that it can."

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