Publisher: AP, The Associated Press
Story date: 16/11/2011
Hundreds of uniformed men described as members of a new Libyan army have been deployed for the first time, to settle a bloody feud between rival militias, officials say.
The soldiers, wearing beige camouflage uniforms and ID badges, were sent to serve as a buffer between gunmen from the city of Zawiya and the nearby tribal area of Warshefana.
Four days of fighting, the most sustained since the capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi last month, had claimed at least 13 lives. The violence raised questions about the ability of Libya's interim leaders to restore order after eight months of civil war.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a senior official in Libya's National Transitional Council, said on Monday that the feud had been settled. He said members of the national army took up positions between Zawiya and the Warshefana lands, a few miles apart, and both less than an hour's drive west of the capital, Tripoli.
In the fighting of recent days, armed forces fired rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns at each other. In Warshefana, several homes were severely damaged. The spark for the violence remains unclear, though accusations have been flying from both sides, including that some of the Warshefana residents had ties to the old regime.
The two sides fought, among other things, for control of a former major military base of the Gaddafi regime. "Members of the national army are now in control of the base, which was a source of conflict," Ghoga said.
On Monday, hundreds of soldiers were deployed in the area between Zawiya and Warshefana. They manned checkpoints and searched cars for weapons.
Ghoga said the units deployed on Monday were forerunners, and that a full army would be formed only after a new government was announced next Sunday. The government is scheduled to run Libya for seven months until elections for a national assembly.
Former anti-Gaddafi fighters would then have the choice either to join the security forces or return to civilian life, he said. Thousands of men who fought against Gaddafi remain armed, and there has been growing concern about the lack of control over all the weapons.
Fighters deciding to join the army would first have to undergo training, Brig Gen Abdel Salam al-Hasi, commander of the new forces, told Associated Press. "Everyone will have to obey the legitimacy of our army," he said.
He would not say how many had already joined, but said the security force was growing in numbers. Gradually, former fighters returning to civilian life would be disarmed, he said.
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