Libya’s de facto head of state Mohamed al-Magarief has said not all areas of the country have been liberated, in remarks on the first anniversary of late leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death.
“The campaign to liberate the country has not been fully completed,” Magarief, the head of Libya’s powerful national assembly, said on state television on Saturday.
He singled out the town of Bani Walid, scene of deadly clashes in recent days, and one of the final strongholds of Gaddafi’s regime during the 2011 war that ousted and killed him.
“Bani Walid’s misfortune is that it has become a sanctuary for a large number of outlaws and anti-revolutionaries and mercenaries,” Magarief said.
Magarief, the president of the democratically elected General National Congress, also noted “delays and negligence” in the formation of a professional army and police force, and the failure to disarm and integrate former rebels.
He also said delays in reactivating and reforming the judiciary had hampered national reconciliation.
“This situation has created a state of discontent and tension among different segments of society and contributed to the spread of chaos, disorder, corruption and weakness in the performance of various government agencies,” Magarief said.
The assessment comes one year after rebel fighters captured Gaddafi in his hometown Sirte. Exactly how Gaddafi was killed on October 20, 2011 remains a point of contention.
Bani Walid besieged
Pro-government militias clashed with fighters in Bani Walid for the third consecutive day on Friday, the spokesman for the Libyan military’s chief of staff said.
Violence has flared periodically over the last year in Bani Walid.
Fighters of the pro-government Libya Shield militia have besieged the town, about 140km southeast of Tripoli, for the past several weeks, blaming residents for the death of a well-known anti-Gaddafi rebel.
Omran Shaaban, a rebel hailed as the fighter who caught Gaddafi, was reportedly kidnapped, tortured and killed by Bani Walid residents.
On Wednesday, they attacked the town with mortar and artillery, then launched a ground assault after saying that negotiations to hand over the suspects in the killing had failed.
A day later, Libya’s defence ministry deployed military forces to the town, although officials say they have not taken part in the fighting that has killed at least seven people and wounded 80 so far.
Magarief expressed regret for the bloodshed but voiced his support for the government-led offensive.
“This is not targeting a region, a tribe, or unarmed civilians but outlawed men,” he said. “This is to impose state legitimacy.”