Armed protesters stormed Libya’s Tripoli-based rival parliament on Thursday during a session to discuss candidates for the country’s National Unity Government, ahead of UN-backed peace talks aimed at building the joint body.
Gunfire rang out through the streets surrounding the capital’s General National Congress which was holding a meeting to propose names for the post of prime minister and deputy prime minister. Members were also discussing reactions to the latest draft peace agreement.
No one claimed responsibility for the violent interruption, carried out by protesters that accused the GNC of working for a foreign agenda. However unconfirmed reports said it was instigated by forces loyal to Salah Badi, a Misrata militia brigade commander and opponent to political reconciliation process.
There were conflicting reports about whether the group were armed or not.
After the attack the GNC failed to put forward any names or to discuss the draft peace deal, agreeing only to return to the negotiating table in Skhirat, Morocco in the coming days for the closing sessions of the UN talks.
Some reports said GNC member Mr. Belgassem Gezzat was also seized.
Badi, a Misrata militia commander, is one of the most hardline representatives of Libya Dawn, the armed coalition that swept control of the capital last summer, reinstating the GNC.
In June Badi, frustrated by the conciliatory approach Dawn was taking ,formed “Jabhat Sumood” or “Steadfastness Front”, a coalition of seven different brigades that claimed to “protect the security of the capital” by shunning all “compromises”.
Badi and his Steadfastness Front have opposed all dialogue tracks.
They have also slammed local initiatives by the Misrata Municipal Council – a semi autonomous body in the Dawn-affiliated city – to secure peace deals with areas in West Libya still loyal to the internationally-recognized government like Warshefana and Zintan.
Libya’s rival government had bolstered security around the GNC preempting the violent backlash.
The United Nations have given both warring factions until the 20 September to agree to a draft peace plan. They aim to form the national unity government in October, to drag the country out of a year-long civil war.