Armed men attack Tripoli govt HQ, elections at risk

Brigade leader threatens 'In Libya there won't be any elections'

16 December, 17:45

    Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah (R) registers his candidacy at the electoral commission for the presidential election in Tripoli, Libya, 21 November 2021 Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah (R) registers his candidacy at the electoral commission for the presidential election in Tripoli, Libya, 21 November 2021

    ROME - A group of armed men in Libya on Wednesday evening surrounded the headquarters of the government in Tripoli and the office of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, without, for the moment, having entered.

    Some sources said the men entered the defence ministry building.

    The chairman of the Presidential Council, Mohammed al Menfi, requested the intervention of security forces.

    Libyan media reported that Menfi was transferred to a safe place together with other members of the Council after receiving information about a plan by the militiamen to attack their homes.

    Parts of the capital were also left without electricity and plunged into darkness.

    It was allegedly Menfi himself who triggered the latent tension between the country's various armed factions, when, as head of the country's armed forces, he decided to remove the commander of the Tripoli military district, Abdel Basset Marwan, who is supported by powerful local militias, and replace him with General Abdel Qader Mansour.

    "There will be no presidential elections in Libya; we will close all state institutions," said Salah Badi, leader of the al-Samoud Brigade.

    Badi, who is from Misrata, has been on the UN Security Council blacklist since 2018 for repeatedly trying to remove former Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj from power and for carrying out armed attacks in the capital that resulted in civilian victims.

    Badi also launched a harsh attack on UN Special Adviser on Libya Stephanie Williams, who yesterday went to Misrata to meet with local authorities, as well as military leaders and armed groups, ahead of the elections.

    "Her role in Libya is criminal," Badi said, criticising the entire electoral process.

    The elections, which are supposed to lift Libya out of the chaos it has been in for a decade, since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, were already hanging in the balance.

    Last Saturday, just two weeks before the vote, the Libya High National Election Commission (HNEC) announced the postponement sine die of the publication of the final list of presidential candidates, explaining that it still has to "adopt a series of measures", but also effectively blocking the already short electoral campaign.

    It therefore seems increasingly unlikely that on Christmas Eve the vote will take place to choose between General Khalifa Haftar, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son Seif al Islam Gaddafi, and Prime Minister Dbeibah himself.

    The list of candidates may potentially expand to others including Tobruk Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, and former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maitig.

    The vote could therefore be postponed to 2022, with Libya slipping back into quicksand once again.

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