Truckloads of armed men attacked the Tripoli headquarters of Libya’s interim prime minister on Tuesday, in a new demonstration of lawlessness pervading in the capital just weeks before a scheduled national election.
News agencies reported that ambulances rushed to the scene, but no information on the number of casualties was immediately available. The prime minister, Abdel Rahim el-Keeb, was reportedly away from the building at the time.
The attackers were believed to be militiamen from Yafran, a town in the Nafusa mountains about 80 miles southwest of the capital, who were demanding payment for their work in fighting the forces of Col. Muammar al- Gaddafi and securing the area after his defeat. The interim government recently suspended a plan to pay such fighters because of rampant corruption, prompting protests.
Municipal elections in Tripoli that were planned for last Saturday were postponed until after the scheduled voting next month for a national assembly.
Security in the capital is negligible, and gunfights between armed groups from rival neighborhoods or towns are a frequent occurrence in its streets. In recent weeks, one militia shot up the lobby of the luxury hotel that serves as the de facto headquarters of the ruling National Transitional Council because of an argument over an unpaid hotel bill. Another militia kidnapped and later released two of the council’s members. “You know that security here is a big joke,” Fathi Baja, a council member, said at the time. With an antiaircraft gun mounted on a pickup truck, he said, “you can do whatever you want — nobody can stop you.”