Tripoli Municipal Chief to Asharq Al-Awsat: Illegal Arms Fuel Unrest

Tripoli Municipal Chief to Asharq Al-Awsat: Illegal Arms Fuel Unrest

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018 - 08:00
Smoke rises during clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, Libya in May 2017. (Reuters)
Cairo – Jamal Jawhar
Head of the Tripoli municipality Abdulrauf Beitelmal blamed the unrest in the Libyan capital on political instability and the spread of weapons.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat, however, that the recent UN-backed security arrangements that have taken place on the ground will “no doubt favor stability.”

Clashes had erupted in Tripoli between rival militias in recent months, leaving hundreds of people dead and injured.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) had issued an order to form a committee that would handle security in Tripoli and impose measures that would bolster a ceasefire. Military and police forces were also deployed at vital institutions to replace armed groups.

“We reject any weapons that are outside the authority of the state,” stressed Beitelmal.

When asked about how to curb the spread of illegal arms and dismantle militias, he cited the experiences of various countries in handling similar cases, saying that such efforts take “a long time and a lot of patience.”

The militias in Tripoli are seen as major obstacles hindering any form of progress. UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame had said that some 200,000 militants were present in the country and they had received some form of cover from the Libyan state for the past five years.

Since the collapse of the regime of former ruler Moammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, weapons caches throughout the country had fallen in the hands of armed groups. Given this reality, Salame told the UN Security Council in January that the arms embargo on the north African country “was important now more than ever because Libya has more than 20 million weapons.”

Despite these challenges, Beitelmal spoke with optimism in tackling the situation in Tripoli.

“Positive thinking is the way to overcome hardships,” he stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

“There are signs that the situation is gradually improving. Libya has experienced greater hardships throughout history and we are certain that this crisis is nearing its end,” he added.

Beitelmal was the victim of a kidnapping earlier this year when gunmen abducted him from in front of his house in March.

On holding militias accountable for their actions and bringing justice to the victims, he stated: “Political stability will inevitably lead to the activation of rules of justice.”

Addressing Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar’s frequent threats that he may launch an operation to “liberate Tripoli from the militias,” Beitelmal responded: “We have never officially heard of such threats.”

Haftar had on September 7 declared that the “liberation of the capital was an inescapable option.”

“The army will move on Tripoli at the right time. This issue has been settled,” he added.

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