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General Strike Slows Libya as Government Acts Against Militias

  • Edward Yeranian

A picture taken Nov. 17, 2013, shows a man walking past closed shops in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

A picture taken Nov. 17, 2013, shows a man walking past closed shops in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Libyan government television broadcast a warning Sunday to militiamen to put down their arms and to leave the country's security to the state after more than 40 demonstrators were killed by militiamen on Friday.

The message echoed a warning Saturday by Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to militiamen to stay out of the capital Tripoli.

The capital was largely quiet Sunday, which is normally a day of work in the Arab world, after a three-day general strike was called to protest Friday's shootings.

The Libyan state news agency LANA reported the Misrata militiamen had abandoned their headquarters in the southern Tripoli district of Garghour. Residents of many parts of Tripoli reportedly set up roadblocks to prevent militiamen from entering their neighborhoods.

The Libyan National Congress, or interim parliament, also moved to dissolve a pro-government militia known as the Revolutionary Operations Bureau, which has been a source of trouble and turmoil in the capital. National Congress spokesman Omar Humeidan said the decision is to take effect immediately.

He says that Revolutionary Operations Bureau is being dissolved and all of its military functions are being transferred to the general staff of the Libyan Army.

It is not clear if the government i+s capable of enforcing the dissolution of the Revolutionary Operations Bureau, which declared a “state of alert” Sunday.

Operations Bureau spokesman Ziad Tayif says his group did not oppose its dissolution.

He says his group wants to see changes in the composition of the new national army:

The Revolutionary Operations Bureau was responsible for the brief kidnapping of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last month. It came under intense criticism for trying to impose its will on the government.

Former Libyan Transitional National Council spokesman Abdel Hafiz Googha says the interim government should have acted sooner and more decisively against armed militias.

He says the interim government should have taken advantage of popular discontent to move quickly and build a police force and military, which he argues are the only two institutions people want.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, Libyan security officials said Sunday militiamen had kidnapped Deputy Intelligence Chief Mustapha Nouha near Tripoli's airport.

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