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Libya: GNA’s al-Sarraj appoints new defence minister, army chief

The head of Libya’s internationally recognised government has appointed a new defence minister and army chief after days of protests against poor public services and living conditions in the country.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, on Saturday promoted deputy and acting Defence Minister Salah Eddine al-Namrush to the ministry’s top job and appointed General Mohammad Ali al-Haddad as head of the army.

The order came hours after the United Nations-recognised GNA announced the suspension of Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha over his alleged support for protesters last week.

Army chief al-Haddad hails from Misrata, 200km (125 miles) east of Tripoli, home to fighters that have fought alongside the GNA in its battle to repel troops loyal to eastern Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The appointments came days after al-Sarraj announced a government reshuffle in response to growing popular discontent in Tripoli and other western Libyan cities under its control.

Since Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators staged rallies in Tripoli against corruption and extended shortages of power, water and fuel in the oil-rich North African country. Gunmen fired on crowds on several occasions.

In response, the GNA said Bashagha “has been temporarily suspended” pending an inquiry “on his statements about the protests and incidents in Tripoli and other cities”.

Bashagha, who was visiting the GNA’s main backer Turkey on Saturday, said in a statement posted on the interior ministry’s Facebook page that he was ready to submit to an investigation.

But he demanded any hearing be broadcast live for the sake of transparency. He is set to return to Tripoli later on Saturday.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with the GNA and a Haftar-backed eastern administration now vying for power against a backdrop of dozens of local conflicts.

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