Libya's Next Problem: Hundreds of Dueling Militias

Tuesday, 01 Nov 2011 02:06 PM

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Hundreds of Libyan militias struggled for months to topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Now, as one-time rebels struggle to transform their movement into a government and form a national army, they are finding that the militias themselves pose a problem, The Washington Post reported.

“Creating a new army is not going to be by an official statement or resolution. It has to come after a negotiation,” said Anis Sharif, a spokesman for Prime Minister Abdulhakim Belhadj.

The eight-month civil war spawned an estimated 300 militias, and reining them in is crucial to restoring order now that NATO has ended its operations and turned security over to the new government. Rival militias already have been involved in confrontations.

“The danger is that you have young men returning from battle, bored and with a newfound sense of regional identity and personal pride,” a Western official in Tripoli told the Post.

Militia and military leaders recognize the need for the militias to stand down or be absorbed into a national force, “but the key will be agreeing and implementing a plan to do this,” the official said.

Human rights advocates are alarmed about the lack of organized security forces, fearing torture for political prisoners. The militias also are armed heavily with rocket launchers and antiaircraft guns. Sharif told the Post that militia leaders are trying to form a group to negotiate with the government about the formation of a new army.

Libyan Defense Ministry Col. Ahmed Bani said all qualified militia members would be welcome in the new armed forces. “We have enough money, we have enough jobs for them,” the Post quotes him as saying.


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