Rebels form 'supreme council' to protect Libyan capital

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has announced the creation of a supreme security council tasked with protecting Tripoli, as shops and businesses in the capital reopened after weeks of tumult.

“This committee represents all those who are concerned for the security of our new capital,” Ali Tarhuni, who chairs the newly formed body as well as the NTC’s executive committee, told reporters on Saturday.

Following a revolt in Libya’s capital evening that saw civilians rise up against Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan rebels stormed Tripoli—seizing control of the dictator’s last stronghold in a largely bloodless assault on the capital.
In their first meeting, the 17 members of the committee agreed that the capital’s security was the general responsibility of the interior ministry, which resumed work on Saturday, and of the police force in particular.

“The main goal is to protect citizens, as well as public and private establishments, and to eliminate what remains of pro-Gaddafi groups,” Tarhuni said.

‘No problems’
The committee, which he said includes the majority of the revolutionary groups in the capital, also decided to include “remaining groups” under its umbrella and expected “no problems” in this regard.

“I do not anticipate any problems in other groups joining this committee,” Tarhuni said, adding that revolutionary units will temporarily assist police forces in securing the streets of the capital.

These groups, he said, will leave the city as soon as the city’s police, which boasts about 7 000 men, can fully take over.

Tarhuni also announced the creation of a new committee charged with centralising prisoners of war in a “safe and secure” location to ensure that their legal and human rights are respected.

“We will protect them and they will enjoy all the legal and human rights despite the fact that they denied such rights to our Libyan people,” he said.

Back to business
Business slowly resumed in Tripoli on Saturday at the end of a week of fighting and festivities, in a quiet but significant boost for Libya’s fledgling government.

Meanwhile the international community—hyper-sensitive to mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan—moved to ensure longer-term security after a nearly seven-month war that continues to rage in pockets of the vast desert nation.

The relative normalcy across the city seen on Saturday came in the face of threats from the veteran dictator to mount a terrorist insurgency, amid petrol and water shortages and with an arsenal of weapons still in the hands of volunteer militias.

“The war is over and we have to go back to work,” Abdullah Turki, a member of the NTC’s stabilisation team. “It will take time, but it will come, people are eager to participate in rebuilding Libya.”

UN steps in
Ian Martin, a special envoy for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tripoli on Saturday, as Ban said the world body was ready to help.

“I am here now to discuss with the National Transitional Council how the United Nations can be most helpful in the future,” Martin told reporters on arrival.

He flew in amid questions about the UN’s future role in the country, particularly about whether a peacekeeping mission will be necessary.

Other UN agencies have already began to descend on the capital.

The organisation’s humanitarian coordinator for Libya on Friday said that water shortages in Tripoli are “serious” but not “critical” as he outlined plans to provide 11 million litres of drinking water.

Water issues
Residents of the capital have been without running water for close to a week as the war forced disruptions to Libya’s state-of-the-art system that draws water from underground wells deep in the south of the country.

Despite the hardships and lingering concerns about security, many shops, banks and government offices all reopened for business, on the first day back at work since the end of Ramadan.

“I closed my store exactly one month ago because there was no transport or fuel,” said 30-year-old Mohamed Abdulah, who owns a coffee shop in Tripoli’s old town.

“I opened my shop today. I have problems with water but the security situation is good.”

Last outpost
Outside the capital, the NTC has extended until next weekend an ultimatum for the surrender of his remaining loyalists but moved troops towards Bani Walid, a desert town southeast of the capital where they suspect Gaddafi may have taken refuge.

Some 600 men aboard 200 combat vehicles moved to within 20km of Bani Walid without meeting any opposition, before returning to their base in Misrata, fighters said.

Nato meanwhile said it had struck targets of pro-Gaddafi forces on Friday in the vicinity of Sirte, Bani Walid, and Hun, halfway between Sirte and the loyalist-held oasis town of Sabha in the south.

Otherwise all was quiet on the western and eastern fronts where NTC forces are awaiting the expiry of the ultimatum or the surrender of the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town.

Nato countries meanwhile faced tough questions about their relationship with members of the former regime following the discovery of secret files in the Libyan capital.

British and US intelligence cooperated closely with Tripoli, with prisoners being offered to Gaddafi’s regime under the so-called rendition programme, the Wall Street Journal said.

British newspaper the Independent said documents reportedly found at a Libyan government building showed that Britain passed details of exiled opponents to Gaddafi’s spies.—AFP


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