12 May 2013

Libyan Gunmen Lift Siege of Ministries

Photo: Hamza Turkia/Xinhua
Gunmen block a street near Libya's Ministry of Justice with military trucks in Tripoli (file photo).

Gunmen who had besieged government ministries in Libya for nearly two weeks have reportedly withdrawn, according to the justice minister. The country now awaits a Cabinet reshuffle.

Militiamen surrounded the Foreign and Justice ministries on April 28 with trucks and guns, demanding that an exclusion law be passed to prohibit Gadhafi-era officials from holding positions in the government. The legislation had been delayed repeatedly.

"Those who were at the two ministries have handed over the two ministries to a committee formed by the government and the General National Congress and have now departed," Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani said on Saturday.

Rights groups and diplomats opposed the exclusion law, saying its terms were too sweeping and could cripple the government.

Opponents also pointed out that it wasn't fair because it didn't make an exception for those who had spent decades in exile and had helped topple Gadhafi two years ago.

Despite objections, parliament acquiesced to the demands and approved the law a week after the siege began.

The armed groups, in turn, added to their list of demands, going so far as to seek the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

Reshuffle in the cards

Days after the law was approved, Zeidan announced an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle. "There will no doubt be a ministerial reshuffle in the coming days," he said.

The recent tensions have prompted some leaders in the east to unite to defend their territory from a similar assault.

The gunmen had been hailed as heroes for their help in toppling Gadhafi two years ago, but since then they have formed militias with different ideologies and motivations.

Now the former heroes are often blamed for many of Libya's problems, particularly the nation's instability.

(AFP, Reuters)

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