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Sunday 8 April 2012

Hundreds of Libyans protest against militias

Hundreds of Libyans protest against militias
Soldiers, police join demonstration in Benghazi against armed groups still active months after helping to oust Gaddafi\04\08\story_8-4-2012_pg4_6

BENGHAZI: Hundreds of people, including police and soldiers, have staged a protest in Libya`s second biggest city calling on militias to lay down their weapons as the government tries to impose its authority.

Chanting: "Army and police, we want nothing else," and: "No militias, no brigades, one army, one flag," about 300 people took to the streets of Benghazi, including soldiers driving a convoy of about 50 military and police vehicles.

Militias fought to end Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule, but six months later their heavily armed units still occupy government buildings and patrol the streets, answering only to their own commanders. The interim leadership, the National Transitional Council, wants militias to fuse into the new national police force and army, but so far only a small proportion have joined up.

"We call on the armed groups and militias that occupy the army camps, police stations, schools or any other state-owned properties to hand them over immediately," one air force officer told the crowd that gathered in the eastern city's central Freedom Square. "Otherwise, we will take the proper procedures to get these properties back, even if it means by force."

The interior minister, Fawzi Abdel A'al, has warned the militias to put down their arms or face confrontation with the new national security forces. International rights groups and the United Nations have identified the militias as one of the biggest challenges to stability as Libya tries to build new institutions.

Underscoring how volatile the north African country remains, 18 people were killed this week in clashes between rival militias in western Libya. In another confrontation that has underlined Libya's fragility, about 150 people were killed in clashes last month between rival tribes in the southern city of Sabha. agencies

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