Libya ministry open after week-long closure by gunmen

Libya's interior ministry reopened Wednesday after being forced to close for more than a week by gunmen demanding the dissolution of an ex-rebel force attached to the ministry, a spokesman told AFP.

"The interior ministry is working normally and the staff have resumed their posts," said Hussein al-Amari of the ministry's information bureau.

A group of armed men entered the buildings on Tuesday last week, asking staff to leave and threatening to use their weapons.

They closed off the entrances to the ministry with mounds of sand, and demanded the dissolution of the supreme security committees, militias made up of former rebels who fought to topple former dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

A ministerial committee responsible for emptying Tripoli of armed militias negotiated the interior ministry's reopening, Libyan news agency LANA reported, without elaborating.

The head of the ministerial committee said that an investigation would be launched "to shed light on this incident," adding that a report would be prepared on damage done to the buildings.

Libya's transitional government formed supreme security committees across the country to maintain security following the fall of Kadhafi's regime in October 2011.

The authorities decided in December to dissolve the committees, but the former rebels themselves blocked the move.

Hailing from various parts of the country and representing different tribes and with varying ideologies, members of the committees have received salaries and perks from the authorities, and some have even benefited from smuggling and extortion.

The new authorities are battling to establish military and security institutions capable of restoring law and order and state authority in the face of the militiamen.

yba/ila/tl/bpz