Two powerful groups of former rebels who helped oust Muammar Qaddafi rejected the government’s choice of a new Army Chief, raising fresh security concerns in the war-torn country.
The Coalition of Libyan Thwars (revolutionaries) and Cyrenaica Military Council - representing militias from several parts of Libya - said they do not accept the choice of Yussef al-Mangush as Chief-of-Staff as declared by officials earlier this week.
Cyrenaica Military Council, which represents fighters from eastern Libya, even went as far as naming its own alternative candidate to head the new national army.
“We reject anybody who is not among the list of 6 candidates proposed by us to the NTC (National Transitional Council),” Behlool Assid, a Founder of the Coalition of Libyan Thwars, told AFP on the sidelines of a news conference.
The coalition represents powerful factions of former rebels from major Libyan cities such as Benghazi, Misrata and Zintan. These militias are armed with heavy arms, including artillery guns and tanks.
Security concerns stem from the fact that any dispute over who should head the army will delay forming the overall force itself and integrating former rebels into it.
Several Officers in the former army have also regularly criticized the NTC for moving slowly on appointing a new Chief-of-Staff, saying the delay had held back the formation of a new army and the integration of ex-rebels.
Forming a new army is seen as a key step towards disarming militias in Libya, especially in the capital Tripoli, where a gunbattle between ex-rebels on Tuesday killed 4 fighters.
The 4 were killed when gunmen from Misrata clashed with a militia faction from a central Tripoli neighborhood in broad daylight, trading anti-aircraft and heavy machinegun fire.
The NTC and the interim government of Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, who has said that the issue of disarming these former rebels is “complex,” intend to integrate tens of thousands of these fighters into the Security Forces.
On Wednesday, the Planning Ministry proposed that former rebels who join the Security Forces of the Interior and Defense Ministries will receive a minimum monthly salary of 600 Libyan dinars ($500 dollars), the government website reported.
The Ministry also proposed that those fighters who want to return to civilian life receive aid for studies in Libya or abroad.
The post of Chief-of-Staff had been vacant since the murder last July of General Abdel Fatah Yunis, who commanded the rebels in eastern Libya against Qaddafi’s diehards.