Libya armed groups agree to leave Tripoli after deadly fighting: Minister

Libya’s Interior Minister Imad Trabelsi says the groups will leave capital after 10 people were killed over the weekend.

The Minister of the Interior of the Libyan National Unity Government Imed Trabelsi, speaks at a press conference in Tripoli on February 21, 2024. (Photo by Mahmud Turkia / AFP)
The Minister of the Interior of the Libyan Government of National Unity Imed Trabelsi, speaks at a press conference in Tripoli on February 21, 2024. [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Armed groups in Tripoli have agreed to leave the Libyan capital and to be replaced with regular forces, the country’s interior minister said, after a spate of deadly clashes.

“After a month of consultations, we came to an agreement with the security groups that they will leave the capital soon,” said Imad Trabelsi, a member of Libya’s internationally recognised government, on Wednesday.

“There will only be city police officers, emergency police, and those who do criminal investigations,” he told a news conference.

The deal will see the General Security Force, the Special Deterrence Force which controls the east of Tripoli, Brigade 444 in southern Tripoli, and Brigade 111, attached to the general staff, quit the capital.

The decision also concerns the Stability Support Authority (SSA), a group based in the neighbourhood of Abu Salim, where 10 people were killed at the weekend, including SSA members.

These “security groups” evolved from the myriad of militias that filled a security vacuum after the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Heavily armed and equipped, they are not under the direct authority of the Ministries of Interior or Defence, though they receive public funds.

They operate independently and were granted a special status by the prime minister and the presidential council in 2021.

The groups have been most visible at roundabouts and main street intersections, where their often-masked members installed checkpoints, blocking traffic with armoured vehicles mounted with weapons.

They have sometimes been involved in violent clashes, even in Tripoli’s residential areas, as was the case last August between the Special Deterrence Force and Brigade 444. The fighting left 55 people dead and 146 wounded.

“From now on, their place is in their headquarters,” Trabelsi said.

“We will use them only in exceptional circumstances for specific missions,” he said, adding that the leaders of the groups “have all shown that they understand”.

“After Tripoli, it will be time for the other cities, where there will be no more checkpoints and no more armed groups” on public roads, he said.

Libya has been battered by armed conflict and political chaos since the 2011 uprising.

The country is divided between the internationally recognised Tripoli-based government led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in the west and an administration in the east backed by renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

Source: AFP