29 March 2013

Libya: Security Problems Persist

Tripoli — Libyan legislators on Tuesday (March 26th) asked the defence and interior ministries to dispatch security forces to the restive south-eastern city of Kufra.

The General National Congress (GNC) called for stationing units within the city, creating checkpoints and opening safe corridors for citizens.

Ethnic clashes between the Toubou and Zuwayya tribes led to hundreds of deaths before Prime Minister Ali Zidan brokered peace talks last month.

Security forces will evict illegal occupants of public and private properties and turn them over to the authorities. The GNC specified that foreign illegal residents would be deported to their countries of origin.

The defence and interior ministries also plan to replace shantytowns with decent housing for citizens. Owners of cleared properties will be compensated.

The government move comes amidst ongoing security problems.

In December, the General National Congress declared the country's southern region to be a restricted military area. "The provinces of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, Al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra are considered as closed military zones to be ruled under emergency law," the decree said.

Still, issues persist in the south. In the south-western desert city of Sebha on Tuesday, an estimated 50 inmates escaped from the local prison. A riot over poor detention conditions reportedly preceded the prison break. Some 200 prisoners escaped from the same facility last December.

The city is no stranger to violence. Sebha tribal clashes last year killed 147 from both sides and left 395 wounded.

The violence became so extreme that the Libyan Red Crescent and the United Nations stepped in to address the humanitarian needs of Sebha residents. Libya's third-largest city is more than 600km from Tripoli, but insecurity in Sebha has far-reaching consequences, residents in the north are quick to point out.

"The stability of these cities ensures the stability of the capital," Tripoli resident Laila Abdullah told Magharebia.

Security problems also persist in the north. Earlier this week, five British human rights activists were kidnapped and later released by a gang in Benghazi. The three men and two women were travelling in a convoy for an Istanbul-based Islamic charity, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH).

The two women "were horribly raped in front of their father ", Deputy Prime Minister Awadh al-Barassi said in a statement posted on his Facebook account. On Thursday, the Deputy Prime Minister visited the women in a Benghazi hospital.

Security forces are hunting for the perpetrators, government official Yusuf Salmi said.

"The government must consider the security situation as its priority," university student Yousef Bin Saleh said.

"It's time for the state to take control," he added.

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