Skip to main content

Libya's foreign ministry cut off by men wielding anti-aircraft guns, official says

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
April 29, 2013 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The men are demanding the Foreign Ministry be cleansed of Gadhafi loyalists
  • They have anti-aircraft guns mounted on their trucks, the official says
  • No violence was reported in the latest in a string of armed protests

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Armed men in trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them surrounded the Libyan Foreign Ministry in Tripoli early Sunday and refused to allow ministry staff to enter the building, a ministry official said.

Gunmen diverted traffic away from the ministry in central Tripoli as they continued the siege through the day.

In a news conference at the scene, protesters said they had a list of demands. Their main goal was to push the General National Congress to pass a proposed law that would ban Gadhafi-era officials from holding government posts.

The political isolation law proposal has been a matter of contention among lawmakers for several months because it could push current senior officials out of office for serving under the former regime.

The protesters said they chose the foreign ministry because it employs officials who continue to serve after the 2011 revolution that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. Another one of their demands is to "cleanse" the Foreign Ministry of former regime elements.

A foreign ministry official, who refused to be named for security reasons, said that no violence erupted during the siege, but ministry staff felt intimidated and threatened by the armed show of force.

Witnesses reported seeing more than a dozen gun trucks on roads leading to the ministry.

Watchdog groups have been calling on Libyan authorities to rein in armed groups that they say continue to pose a threat to the country's future.

"Unlawful armed groups that show up with heavy weapons and block access to government institutions demanding grievance, crosses the line of peaceful protest; it is intimidating and threatening and there should be accountability for these actions" Hanan Salah, the Libya researcher for Human Rights Watch told CNN on Sunday.

In recent months, similar incidents have taken place in the capital, with some Libyans resorting to armed protests. In some cases protesters surrounded government offices, and sessions of the country's legislature have been interrupted by armed groups who would storm their meetings.

Last month armed protesters besieged members of the General National Congress for several hours in an attempt to force them to pass the political isolation law. Gunmen later opened fire on the vehicle of the parliament speaker, who escaped unharmed.

Eighteen months after the fall of the regime, Libya remains awash in weapons and militias that the government has been struggling to control to secure the country.

Benghazi explosion damages police station

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1809 GMT (0209 HKT)
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT