Fighters exchange fire outside Libya congress
Former Libyan rebel fighters seeking more recognition from the North African country's new rulers briefly exchanged fire outside the national congress in Tripoli on Tuesday, members of the assembly said.
Tuesday's incident comes two days after Libya's head of congress pledged to dissolve rogue militias who have refused to lay down their arms since the civil war that ousted longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.
Libyan leaders are trying to impose order on post-revolutionary armed groups in the wake of a fatal assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
Underlining Libya's precarious security, an argument during the demonstration outside the national congress boiled over into an exchange of gunfire.
"They started fighting among each other, first just hitting each other and then exchanging fire," congress member Nizar Kawan said, adding that some protesters were carrying banners saying "do not sideline the revolutionaries".
"Some of them were saying they should end the protest, others did not want to, and it escalated."
A second congress member, who declined to be named, said that politicians were evacuated to a nearby hotel.
"Security forces asked congress members to leave the building," he said. "Security forces closed off the area and started shooting in the air to stop the protesters."
Libya's army on Sunday ordered rogue armed groups in and around Tripoli to leave state and military premises or be ejected by force, apparently seeking to capitalise on the withdrawal of militias from Benghazi and Derna.
A European Union official said on Tuesday the EU would send a fact-finding mission to Libya next month to assess what needs to be done to help Libyan authorities strengthen their control of security, then report back to Brussels and EU governments.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the EU might help with the reintegration of former fighters into the security services or could help train the police, border guards or judiciary. This could entail sending a civilian EU assistance team, but it was too early to say if that would happen, he said.
"The tragic recent events demonstrate there is a huge need to reform the security sector to create normal security conditions in the country and the Libyan government is fully aware of it."