Libya to fold militias into police, military
TRIPOLI, Libya - Libya’s interim government said it plans to begin bringing irregular rebel militias under government control, either disbanding them or incorporating them into regular police and military forces, said Ali Tarhouni, the deputy chairman of the rebels’ executive board, speaking at a news conference here yesterday.
Tarhouni, the highest-ranking rebel official in Tripoli, the capital, so far, announced the formation of a Supreme Security Committee of civilian officials and militia leaders, which would take control of all security matters in Tripoli. He said he had been appointed its chairman.
“We agreed in principle that the protection of the capital will be assigned mainly to the Ministry of the Interior, and particularly the police forces,’’ he said, summarizing the results of the committee’s first meeting.
However, rebel leaders have not yet announced a schedule for disbanding irregular militias, and no training programs have yet been established for them. It is also unclear if all of the armed rebels will agree to put down their weapons when told to do so.
Forming the Supreme Security Committee seemed to be a move to consolidate control of the capital under civilian leadership, but Tarhouni said it would not replace the Tripoli Military Council, a grouping of rebel militias that had participated in ousting the forces of Moammar Khadafy from the capital.
The chairman of the military council, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, has been a controversial figure because of his history as the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was declared a terrorist group by the United Nations and the United States.
However, Belhaj has pledged publicly that he will quickly disband his forces as soon as Libya is stable. He was one of the members of the new 21-member Supreme Security Committee, and he appeared with Tarhouni and the other members at the announcement yesterday. Other members included Interior Ministry officials and police and army officers, as well as some, but not all, of the rebel militia leaders now in the city, and brigades from Misurata and the western mountains.
Tarhouni said the committee hoped to incorporate all of the rebel militia leaders soon.
“The more the police forces take over, then the more the militia groups will move outside the city,’’ he said.
Tripoli has been mostly calm for the past week, with order visibly increasing day by day on the streets. There are numerous rebel checkpoints and fewer reports of randomly marauding bands of armed men. In recent days, weapons registration cards have been issued to all rebels stationed in the city, recording the serial numbers of their weapons, and unregistered weapons are subject to seizure.
Nonetheless, gun trucks with heavy weaponry still occasionally tear up the roads, and celebratory firing, especially at night, remains a public safety concern.
“We have the intention to collect the arms of our revolutionaries or to send them out of the city,’’ said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council, speaking at a news conference in Benghazi yesterday. Abdul-Jalil said the rebels hoped to minimize the sort of problems they had in cities they had previously captured, which were attributed to having too many armed men and not enough control of them.
Abdul-Jalil said the transitional council had approved the decision to form the Supreme Security Committee in Tripoli. He had no details, however, about when he and other members of the transitional council would move from Benghazi to Tripoli. The leader of the rebels’ executive committee, Mahmoud Jibril, remains outside of Libya.