September 24, 2011 / 6:33 PM / 8 years ago

Tripoli armed group says arms spreading to regions

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Weapons seized from sites in Tripoli have been taken to other parts of Libya by fighters who filled the capital to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, a representative of one of the city’s armed groups said on Saturday.

Abdelraouf al-Kurdi, a representative of fighters from Tripoli’s Souq al-Jum’a district, made the statement as Libya’s new leaders struggled to form a transitional government, in which roles allotted to regions was a key stumbling block.

“There is a proliferation of weapons, either from the old regime or from people who, after the 20th, entered warehouses and took weapons,” he said, referring to the day last month when fighters launched the assault that drove Gaddafi from power.

Concerns have been raised that militias could mushroom along regional lines and undermine the central authority that Libya’s new leaders are trying to establish.

Interim government forces operate in disparate units based on their home towns, with little overall command.

“There are weapons that the kata’ib (brigades) from Zintan and Misrata have taken to Misrata and Zintan, but it’s not individuals taking these weapons,” said Kurdi, adding there was some degree of coordination among various armed groups.

“Regarding the kata’ib which entered from outside Tripoli, the kata’ib from Misrata and Zintan, well, there’s complete accord between us and them, and contact. As for some of the armed groups from outside (Tripoli), we are now collecting their weapons.”

Kurdi was speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Tripoli, attended by representatives of the United States and Turkey and the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), that was designed to aid the formation of a new Libya.

NTC security official Osama Abu Ras said all anti-Gaddafi fighters were aware of an interim government requirement that weapons had to be registered and stored safely.

He said he was aware that some weapons had been taken outside the capital but steps were being taken to establish their location and ensure they were securely held.

ALLEGIANCE ISSUES

The capital has seen almost complete calm since NTC fighters stormed Gaddafi’s fortress-like compound in Tripoli and sent him into hiding.

The allegiance of armed units in the capital to the interim government is not entirely clear, and frictions have surfaced over the presence of fighters from elsewhere in the country.

The top military commander in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, has said he intends to bring all arms in the capital under unified command, a goal echoed by the NTC.

Kurdi said his group was working with others in Tripoli and collecting some weapons.

“We are gathering them now, daily,” he said.

NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Saturday interim government forces had found suspected internationally banned weapons near the towns of Sabha and Wadan, but he gave no details about them.

“There are weapons believed to be internationally forbidden, and they are under our control,” he told a news conference at the NTC’s headquarters in its eastern Benghazi base.

“We will seek help from local experts and the international community to get rid of these weapons in a suitable way.”

Additional reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Barry Malone

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