Libya: army troops protest in Benghazi

Hundreds of Libyan soldiers protested Jan. 5 in the eastern city of Benghazi, demanding payment of overdue wages and complaining that militia groups have taken over their bases and resist joining a new national army. “The revolutionaries don’t want to join an organized military, they want to keep their current situation,” Mabrouk Abdullah al-Oraibi, who formerly worked in the military’s accounting department, told Reuters. While the Reuters account emphasized that the army had been “marginalized” by Moammar Qaddafi (presumably in favor of mercenaries in his direct pay), Algeria ISP reports that the protesting soldiers chanted “Yes, yes, yes, Moammar is alive!”

Protesters, including soldiers, have apparently been gathering in Benghazi’s central square every day since Dec. 12, with similar movements reported from Misrata and Zaouia. One Benghazi protester told France24: “What we want most of all is the creation of a Libyan army to ensure the country’s security. It is completely unacceptable that a sovereign country only has militias. The fighters must choose: either they join a regular army or they lay down their arms. There are still too many weapons in circulation in Libya.”

Clashes between rival militias continue in the lawless atmosphere. Two days before the Benghazi protest, fighters with a Tripoli-based militia engaged in a shootout with militiamen from Misrata, leaving two dead, according to the New York Times.

The leader of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, warned later that day that the government faced “bitter options” in its struggled to control the regional militias. “We deal with these violations strictly and put the Libyans in a military confrontation, which we don’t accept, or we split and there will be a civil war,” Abdel-Jalil was quoted by Reuters.

UN moves towards probe of NATO war crimes
The incoming UN Security Council president, South Africa’s Baso Sangqu, called on Jan. 4 for an investigation into abuses committed during NATO’s bombing campaign in Libya, saying he believed the alliance overstepped its mandate enforcing a no-fly zone, killing an untold number of civilians. Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said his country is also backing a Russian push for an investigation into civilian casualties of the NATO bombardment. The US and France are resisting any such investigation. US Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed Russia’s demand as a cheap stunt to distract attention from the Syrian regime’s crackdown on protesters. (AFP, AP Pakistan, Jan. 5 )

See our last posts on Libya and the Arab revolutions.

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