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(Reuters) - The head of Libya's national congress said on Sunday about 50 people had been arrested in connection with a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week, although the interior minister put the figure far lower.
Tuesday's attack in Benghazi coincided with protests over a video made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Mohammad. It resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Libyan assembly head Mohammed Magarief was asked by the "Face the Nation" program on the U.S. television network CBS how many people had been arrested in connection with the assault, and replied: "About 50."
But Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel A'al, when asked about that figure, told Reuters in Tripoli that only four arrests had been made and around 50 people were "wanted for investigation".
The former self-employed National Transitional Council (NTC) succeeded in organizing the General Elections and accordingly power was transferred peacefully to the elected General National Congress (GNG). Although the NTC and its government managed during a difficult stage to run the country and deal with some urgent files, both failed to restore stability to Libya.
The criticism directed to the NTC and its transitional government was their inability to get involved in effectively forming the national army and police. Accordingly, the Libyan government encountered difficulties to bring many tribal and regional conflicts under control and hundreds of lives were lost as a result of that.
The Supreme Security Committee (SSC) was created to fill in the security vacuum. Many former revolutionaries have been given the chance to join the SSC which has played a role in maintaining a relative state of security.
The problem is that the security situation is continuously deteriorating in the country. Almost every passing day, we hear about explosions, assassinations, attacks on foreign interests and/or abduction and murder of Libyans and foreigners.
Mosques, Sufi shrines and centres for memorizing the Holy Book of Quran have been systematically vandalized under the watchful eye of members of the security forces. Lawbreakers seem to have been enjoying impunity.
The attack on the USA consulate in Benghazi and the killing of four Americans including the US Ambassador to Libya, the man described as a friend of Libya, has undoubtedly revealed to the world the reality of the fragile security situation on the ground.
All that has proven the government's failure to contain some armed groups right from the beginning of their emergence and prevent them from acting outside the legitimacy of the government.
Furthermore, the interim government has not been able to implement its plans for national reconciliation between different tribes and regions in spite of some conferences on national reconciliation and the formation of reconciliation committees.
Some conflicts have caused tens of thousands of Libyans to be internally displaced. All are waiting for the government to address their problems. Many figures of the former regime live outside the country, some of which could pose a threat to Libya.
It is difficult to implement any national reconciliation without having a trustworthy judicial system. The Libyan government has not activated effectively that system.
Many Libyan officials continue to blame many criminal acts on either the sympathizers of the former regime, the so-called semi-revolutionaries or some extreme Islamist groups.
Some members of the Gaddafi brigades are accused of committing crimes against the revolution. Their cities and tribes refuse to hand them over since they either fear revenge or want to offer them protection in the absence of any functioning security institutions. It is also important to report that the so-called semi-revolutionaries are not held accountable for their criminal behaviour.
There are reports indicating that the Libyan national police is too weak to maintain security. Unfortunately, there have been no effective plans to reinforce the national security by adequately recruiting members from the SSC and revolutionary brigades. Potential recruits must be well trained and generously rewarded. Although some army recruits have signed contracts with the Libyan army, they have not yet been paid.
Many members of the SSC are now guarding public institutions and checkpoints across Libya. These members should have been urged to join the national security forces that are tasked with safeguarding such locations. Both the national police and the SSC members seem to be working independently.
It was unjustifiably disappointing to hear Abdulraim Al-Keib, declaring in front of the GNC weeks before leaving office, that his government has been unable to act efficiently due to the presence of a higher authority than his. He behaved as if he had no mandate as the Libyan prime minister. He refused to name that authority.
Is this the expected message of assurance, from the official occupying the highest executive position in Libya, sent to the ordinary Libyans and the foreigners residing in Libya? If any official is aware of his inability to take actions against any criminal act in view of pressure from some influential, he/she has to take a brave decision to resign from his post. The Libyans following 42 years of struggle for their freedom expect all government officials to behave responsibly.
One important stride towards restoring security is to set applicable and scheduled plans to disarm all armed groups that do not belong to the government's security institutions which have to be empowered to replace all armed brigades. This will lead to enforcing the rule of law and confronting any security threats to our nation.
Before being asked to hand in their weapons, former revolutionaries should have rehabilitation programmes and they need to be offered job opportunities. Those revolutionaries under the age of eighteen need to receive special care.
The proliferation of weapons hinders the progress of establishing a state of law, threatens the civilian life and represents an obstacle facing the economic and social security of Libya. Many groups and individuals possess these weapons and use them ruthlessly, indifferently and aggressively.
There may also be a plan to issue registered gun licenses to individuals who may need to carry guns, particularly at this stage, for some security reasons. The GNC could also pass a law that criminalize anyone demonstrating weapons in public places or using them to terrorize the public.