Libya vows to fight ‘scourge’ of terrorism

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TRIPOLI: The Libyan government on Thursday vowed to fight terrorism, in its first acknowledgement that “terrorist groups” were behind dozens of attacks against security services and Westerners.
Three years after a revolution toppled long-time dictator Moummar Gaddafi and left the country awash with guns, near-daily attacks continue unchecked across Libya.
“The nation finds itself in a confrontation with terrorist groups, and it falls upon the government to mobilise its military and security forces to fight this scourge,” the government said in a statement on its website.
“There will be no place for terrorism in Libya... and Libyans must be prepared for such a battle in terms of caution, awareness and sacrifice,” said the statement.
Eastern Libya has become a bastion of Islamist extremists, with authorities avoiding a full-blown confrontation with heavily armed former rebels pending the formation of a regular army and police force.
The government indicated it would turn to “the national military force as it is of now” in its fight against terrorism, alluding to pro-government militias that battled Khadafi’s regime in the 2011 uprising.
The statement was published after a cabinet meeting held in the southern town of Ghat, two days after a car bomb at a military academy in the restive eastern city of Benghazi left at least seven soldiers dead.
It also comes after parliament on Tuesday ousted prime minister Ali Zeidan over his failure to bring law and order to the country.
The government said “the cities of Benghazi, Derna and Sirte and others are facing a terrorist war carried out by Libyan and foreign elements with hostile intentions.”
Libyan authorities did not mention any particular group, but these cities are strongholds of extremists such as the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, placed on the United States’ terror list in January.
While experts regularly accuse extremist groups of carrying out attacks, authorities have not directly implicated the heavily armed outfits out of fear of retaliation.
Ansar al-Sharia is suspected of waging attacks against judges and security forces, but also of being behind attacks on Western interests such as an assault on the US mission in 2012 that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
There have also been a string of attacks and kidnappings targeting foreigners in the North African nation.
A French engineer was shot dead in Benghazi on March 2 and a British man and a New Zealand woman were also found shot dead on a beach southwest of the capital in January.
In December, an American teacher was killed in Benghazi, and two French guards were wounded in a car bombing outside France’s embassy in Tripoli last April 23.
The government statement called on “the international community and in particular the United Nations to provide the necessary support to eradicate terrorism in Libyan cities”.
Three years after the uprising, the government has come under increasing criticism from Libyans who accuse them of corruption and failing to provide security.
Criminals roam the streets, and rival tribes shoot it out to settle long-standing disputes, while many ex-rebels have formed powerful militias rather than integrating into the regular armed forces and police. 

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