BEIRUT

Middle East

Libyan parliament votes to disband militia brigades

A destroyed house is seen at a former Libyan army camp known as Camp 27, in the capital Tripoli, on August 11, 2014 following reportedly clashes between rival militias. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya’s parliament Wednesday voted to disband the country’s militia brigades and integrate them into the military in an effort to end the worst fighting between rival armed factions since the 2011 fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

It was not immediately clear how the new Congress would enforce its decision. Composed of ex-rebels, the brigades are heavily armed and more powerful than Libya’s fragile government and regular armed forces.

Militias are the only force on the ground in Libya as the 2011 war left its police and military shattered. Successive governments have relied on militias to maintain order.

Parliament also voted to call on the United Nations to intervene to protect citizens and institutions.

Lawmakers convened in Libya’s eastern-most city of Tobruk, far from weekslong militia battle over the international airport in the capital, Tripoli, and clashes in the country’s second-largest city, Benghazi.

They adopted a resolution asking the Security Council for help. It passed with 111 votes in favor from among 124 lawmakers present.

Meanwhile, random shelling in Tripoli killed three people overnight.

Gunmen Tuesday shot dead Tripoli police chief Colonel Mohammad al-Suissi in the eastern suburbs and abducted two of his bodyguards before later freeing them.

It was not immediately clear how the U.N. would respond to the parliament’s plea but calls for outside help have come from many in Libya. The U.N. mission in Libya – which evacuated because of the violence – has called on warring parties to stop the violence and hold peace talks.

Thousands have fled the country, including diplomats and foreign nationals. Scores of embassies have closed down and international organizations have shut their offices.

Violence mounted when Islamist-led militias mainly from the coastal city of Misrata launched an attack on the Tripoli airport, under the control of rival militias from the mountain town of Zintan.

Analysts believe the operation came as a backlash to Islamists’ devastating loss in the last legislative polls and to counter a campaign in Benghazi led by a renegade army general and army units against Islamic militias.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 14, 2014, on page 10.

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Summary

Libya's parliament Wednesday voted to disband the country's militia brigades and integrate them into the military in an effort to end the worst fighting between rival armed factions since the 2011 fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

Militias are the only force on the ground in Libya as the 2011 war left its police and military shattered. Successive governments have relied on militias to maintain order.

Lawmakers convened in Libya's eastern-most city of Tobruk, far from weekslong militia battle over the international airport in the capital, Tripoli, and clashes in the country's second-largest city, Benghazi.


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