The New York Times reports: Many of the local militia leaders who helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are abandoning a pledge to give up their weapons and now say they intend to preserve their autonomy and influence political decisions as “guardians of the revolution.”
The issue of the militias is one of the most urgent facing Libya’s new provisional government, the Transitional National Council. Scores of freewheeling brigades of armed volunteers sprang up around the country and often reported to local military councils, which became de facto local governments in cities like Misurata and Zintan, as well as the capital, Tripoli.
The provisional government’s departing prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, suggested in a news conference Sunday night that instead of expecting the local militias to disband, the Transitional National Council should try to incorporate them by expanding to include their representatives.
“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.
Noting reports of sporadic clashes between militias as well as vigilante revenge killings, many civilian leaders, along with some fighters, say the militias’ shift from merely dragging their feet about surrendering weapons to actively asserting a continuing political role poses a stark challenge to the council’s fragile authority.
“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” said Ramadan Zarmoh, 63, a leader of the Misurata military council, who argued that the city’s militia should dissolve itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”