1 September 2014

Libya Militias Seize Tripoli Government Offices

Photo: Iason Athanasiadis/UNSMIL
(file photo)

Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been seized by armed militias. The loss of control comes just days after the country's interim government resigned, following the creation of a rival Islamist administration.

The Libyan government reported in a statement that it has lost control of state offices in Tripoli to armed militias.

"We announce that most ministries, institutions and state bodies in the capital Tripoli are out of our control," the statement, which was released overnight on Sunday, said. The statement also added that armed groups were "preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors."

Videos were also released on Sunday showing cheering Islamist militiamen, as they dived from an upstairs balcony into the swimming pool, at the US embassy compound in Tripoli that was evacuated in late July.

Parliament resigns

The interim government led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani announced last Thursday that it had "presented its resignation to the elected parliament". The decision came just three days after the rival General National Congress (GNC) - which the new parliament officially replaced after elections in June - named the pro-Islamist figure Omar al-Hassi to form a new government.

Islamists, who were not as strong in the new legislature as the former one, subsequently reconvened the GNC in Tripoli last week, following an appeal by groups who refused to recognize the House of Representatives, due to its strong liberal and federalist presence.

Senior officials of the House of Representatives interim government, including Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, had already relocated to the remote eastern city of Tobruk last month after an alliance of armed militias, led by forces from the western city of Misrata, took control of the capital.

According to a statement from the government, the Libyan parliament is now operating from the east of the country for security reasons and is in contact with officials, "trying to ensure the continuity of services from afar".

Descent into chaos

Since veteran dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed some three years ago, Libya has slowly descended into a state of anarchy.

With a civil war looming, Western powers and Libya's neighbors continue to look on, somewhat helpless, amid fears that the North African country will turn into a failed state.

At the end of August, fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition also captured Tripoli airport after several days of clashes with nationalist militiamen.

ksb/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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