Libyan protesters lash out at new ‘monster’ in power

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Libyans are accusing their new rulers of corruption, secrecy and nepotism, as protests grow across the country only three months after the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi fueled hopes for democratic change in the North African nation.

Unrest across Libya, including in Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi, the second-largest city, in the east, now threatens the National Transitional Council (NTC), an interim body that comprises an unknown number of unelected representatives.

The council’s control over the country was dealt a blow Tuesday when hundreds of armed men thought to be still loyal to Gadhafi seized Bani Walid after easily defeating the local pro-NTC revolutionary force in the city, which is 90 miles southeast of Tripoli. Bani Walid was one of the Gadhafi regime’s last strongholds in the revolution that ended in October.

Libyan sources gave conflicting accounts of whether the uprising was led by Gadhafi loyalists or residents angry at the NTC. Some sources said Bani Walid residents raised green flags synonymous with the former regime. At least four revolutionary fighters were killed in the clash this week, they said.

The NTC also has failed to disarm hundreds of armed militias that frequently engage in deadly clashes with one another.

“The Libyan people have identified the NTC as the root of all problems in Libya,” said Mohamed Benrasali, a spokesman for the city council of Misrata, 125 miles east of Tripoli.

“The NTC has become a monster and a corrupt one at that due to the lack of transparency. And, ultimately, these protests may lead to the fall of the government,” he added in an Internet phone interview.

On Saturday, protesters stormed the NTC offices in Benghazi, confronted its chairman, Mustafa Abul Jalil, and vandalized his vehicle.

Many Libyans accuse Mr. Abdul Jalil of running a one-man show. He served as justice minister in the Gadhafi regime but switched sides early in the revolution, which started in February.

“Everyone feels that the NTC is not playing a good democratic game and it doesn’t feel like a good beginning for the new Libyan democracy,” Kamal Farhat, who took part in the protests in Tripoli, said in a phone interview.

Many Libyans also are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that was banned by Gadhafi, is trying to hijack the country. The transitional government and local councils are packed with Islamists who wield immense power, they say.

“These are people who are trying to hijack the revolution, and anxiety is spreading fast in society,” Hakeem Gadi, a Tripoli-based pro-democracy activist, said in a phone interview.

Mr. Abdul Jalil has done little to address the protesters’ grievances.

Instead, he warned in an interview Sunday with Libya al-Hurra television that the country would descend into a civil war if the NTC resigns.

Some Libyans see shades of Gadhafi, who was killed Oct. 20, in Mr. Abdul Jalil’s rhetoric.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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