Libyan government takes back ministry from armed group
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The Libyan government has taken back control of its interior ministry from an armed group that had besieged the building for a week, an official said on Wednesday.
The group had ordered staff to leave the ministry on July 2 and its men had remained there for days. They had closed off the compound's main entry with mounds of sand.
One of them had said they would stay until authorities broke up an armed force, known as the Supreme Security Committee (SSC) which says it is backed by the interior ministry.
The SSC is composed of militiamen - former rebel fighters from the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi - who are often better armed and more powerful than the police.
"The government had formed a ministerial committee to solve the crisis and it succeeded in getting the ministry back last night," a ministry official, who declined to be named, said.
"We don't know what agreement was reached but right now workers are checking the building and it is in good condition."
State news agency LANA said the ministry was calling for workers to come back to the office.
Armed groups made up of former rebel fighters from different parts of the North African country have grown in power and ambition since Gaddafi's ouster and the weak central government has struggled to impose its authority over them.
Libya, a major oil producer, remains awash with weapons after the 2011 Western-backed uprising. But the central government, whose own forces are too weak to maintain security, has found itself having to co-opt or license some of the most powerful militias to maintain even a semblance of order.
The government has said it is drawing up plans to disband militias but has not given details of how the authorities will tackle the bands of fighters.
(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Michael Roddy)
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