Libya braces for protests against protracted transition

AFP , Friday 7 Feb 2014

Nouri Abusahmain, president of the General National Congress (GNC), speaks during a ceremony in Tripoli January 30, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Security forces braced for protests Friday against Libya's protracted political transition from the ousted dictatorship of Moamer Kadhafi amid fears of violence after gunmen attacked army headquarters overnight.

A military spokesman told AFP the unidentified men tried to enter the complex late Thursday but were prevented by guards from doing so.

"The attackers ransacked cars and stole some weapons before pulling back," Colonel Ali al-Sheikhi said.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, he added.

A separate military source gave a different version of events, saying that fighting broke out after a dispute among soldiers.

Tensions are mounting ahead of Friday's expected demonstrations against a decision by Libya's highest political authority to extend its interim mandate.

The General National Congress (GNC) was elected in July 2012 for a term of 18 months, but on Monday ratified a decision to extend its mandate to December 2014.

It took the decision despite the opposition of much of the population critical of its inability to halt Libya's slide into lawlessness and chaos.

When first formed, the GNC's mission was to prepare for polling to form a commission tasked with drawing up a new constitution and to organise a general election.

Fears are rising of rival armed groups clashing as the political turmoil shows little sign of being resolved.

The Operations Cell of Revolutionaries, an Islamist militia of ex-rebels said to be close to the army, has lined up behind the GNC, and the powerful armed groups from Libya's third city Misrata have called the body "a red line".

But rival former rebels from Zintan, in the mountains southwest of Tripoli, an influential force in post-Kadhafi Libya, have vowed to protect any popular movement that goes against the GNC.

A "No Extension" campaign has also been launched in the troubled eastern city of Benghazi, and more protests have been called for Friday, the day the GNC's original mandate was to have expired.

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