Gunmen surrounded the Libyan Foreign Ministry in Tripoli on Sunday, calling for a ban on officials who worked for the country’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
The armed protest came just days after the French embassy in Tripoli was bombed. The protest also raised fresh security fears in the capital, causing the German embassy to suspend some of its activities.
At least 20 pickup trucks loaded with anti-aircraft guns blocked traffic while men with sniper rifles and AK-47s directed traffic away from the Foreign Ministry.
Armed groups also attempted to storm the Ministry of Interior and the state news agency, though their efforts were not successful. The nation’s prime minister Ali Zaidan called a news conference to address the situation, saying:
“These attacks will never get us down and we will not surrender. Those who think the government is frustrated are wrong. We are very strong and determined.”
Libya has been full of weapons and roving armed militias since Gaddafi was toppled by Western-backed rebels two years ago. While militias were banned in September and some Islamist militant militias were run out of the country by citizens, there are a few who still remain. They have been seen increasingly targeting state institutions.
Tensions between the two sides have been increasing since a campaign was launched by the government to dislodge the militias from their strongholds in the capital. Sunday’s protest was made to demand a law to be passed that would ban Gaddafi-era officials from holding senior government positions.
Depending on the wording of the law, having it enacted could force out several ministers and the congress leader. The foreign ministry has also been targeted because some officials working in the building had worked for Gaddafi. But the General National Congress, Libya’s legislature, was previously prevented from voting on the law when protesters barricaded some assembly members inside a building for several hours in March.
The protesters were demanding that the legislature adopt the law. It is not clear how long the protest at the Libyan Foreign Ministry will last.
[Image via Magharebia]