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Libya's No. 2 Leader Resigns After Benghazi Anti-Government Riot


Men chant slogans during a protest in Benghazi, Libya, December 12, 2011.

Men chant slogans during a protest in Benghazi, Libya, December 12, 2011.

The deputy head of Libya's National Transitional Council has stepped down, a day after anti-government protesters stormed the ruling body's offices in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, one of the Council's highest-profile members, announced his resignation Sunday as thousands of university students demonstrated against him in Benghazi, where last week he was manhandled and had to be pulled to safety.

The protesters denounced Ghoga's presence in the NTC, calling him and other former loyalists "opportunists." Ghoga was a belated defector to the Libyan rebels from ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi's government.

Benghazi residents also have accused the NTC of corruption, not moving fast enough on reform, and favoring former loyalists at the expense of wounded rebels who helped overthrow Gadhafi last year.

On Saturday, rioters threw stones and hand grenades at the NTC complex in Benghazi, entering the site while senior officials were inside. It was the most serious display of public anger toward the NTC since Gadhafi's ouster.

Benghazi was the cradle of the revolt against Gadhafi's 42-year autocratic rule. NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, speaking in the eastern city, appealed to the protesters for patience. He warned that Libya risks entering a "bottomless pit," adding that "hidden hands" were behind the demonstrations.

An NTC committee meeting at a secret location in Benghazi Sunday said the release of Libya's election law will be delayed one week until January 28. The law will spell out how Libyans are to elect the 200-member national assembly that will oversee the drafting of a constitution.

The new legislature is supposed to be elected before June 23. Under Gadhafi's rule, Libya had no working parliament for four decades.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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