Saturday, January 19, 2013

US-backed Libyan Rebel Chief Caught in Firefight

Libya rebel defence chief caught in firefight, unhurt

Libya's rebel defence chief was unhurt Saturday after being caught in a firefight between his bodyguards and ex-rebels at an airbase in the east of the country, his deputy told AFP.

Mohammed al-Barghati was leaving the airport in Tobruk, eastern Libya, when the shooting occurred, said Khaled al-Sherif.

"As the minister prepared to leave the airport by car, his bodyguards traded fire with angry soldiers and ex-rebels, but the minister was not hurt," Sherif said.

Libya's rebel LANA news agency said Barghati's car was not the target of the shooting, blaming the incident on a clash between rebel units at the Tobruk airbase east of Benghazi during which "warning shots were fired."

Barghati had been meeting with military brass to discuss means of bolstering the rebel armed forces, his ministry said.

A rebel military official, who declined to be identified, said the incident occurred after a former deputy rebel defence minister in charge of the counter-revolutionary national guard and vital installations refused a rebel government decision to quit.

The US-led regime recently decided to scrap the post of ex-minister Al-Seddik al-Ghaithi al-Obeidi, a jihadist, who was accused of refusing to put himself under the command of the rebel's chief of staff.

The fledgling rebel army and police are too weak to rein in the militias who participated in the 2011 US-NATO engineered counter-revolution that brought an end to the revolutionary Pan-African government of Moamer Kadhafi.

More than a year after Kadhafi was brutally assassinated, Libya is still awash with weapons and the eastern city of Benghazi, where the counter-revolution first erupted, has been rocked by a wave of attacks targeting foreign diplomats, rebel military and police officers.

On Wednesday, rebel Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said he was considering imposing a curfew on Benghazi, a day after a car bomb killed a police officer there.

Benghazi has emerged as a hub for jihadist groups, including militants who killed US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the US consulate last September 11.

Italy temporarily closed its consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday and pulled its staff out of the country following a failed gun attack on its consul.

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