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Libya Defense Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Cells are Present in Tripoli

Libya Defense Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Cells are Present in Tripoli

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 - 05:30
The electoral commission building after a suicide attack in Tripoli, Libya, May 2, 2018. (Reuters)

The Defense Minister in the cabinet of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj stressed that holding elections in the country was enough to unite state institutions and eliminate terrorism.

Al-Mahdi al-Barghathi told Asharq Al-Awsat in wake of the bombing of the Libya elections commission in Tripoli on Wednesday that ISIS terrorist sleeper cells are present in the capital and other cities.

“This criminal act confirms to us the need to hold elections,” he stressed.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the electoral commission bombing that killed more than a dozen people.

The parliamentary and presidential polls will mark the beginning of uniting the country and ensuring its security and stability, Barghathi explained.

He acknowledged that the confrontation against groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda is difficult, “given that they are backed by some international intelligence agencies.”

“I therefore believe that eliminating terrorism in Libya demands that we speed up establishing a united authority and holding elections,” the minister said.

The Quartet on Libya has been pushing for holding presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year.

Another obstacle, Barghathi added, is the entrenchment of terrorist groups in southern Libya, which he blamed on the absence of official military or security authorities in those vast desert regions.

“This entrenchment allows these groups to form sleeper cells anywhere,” he warned.

Asked about his stance on Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of former late leader Moammar, Barghathi replied that he is part of the solution in Libya and he can run for president if he meets the required conditions.

On whether the polls will be postponed in wake of the elections commission bombing, the minister said: “A constant constitution and a unite authority are necessary for the rise of the state.”

“We support holding presidential and parliamentary elections according to a constitution that enjoys the approval of the people,” he stated.

“We will have a united and legitimate national government by simply holding the elections,” he stressed.

This government will be able to eliminate terrorism and restore security in Libya, he continued.

“Wednesday’s bombing will only make us more determine to hold polls…. The situation in the country is no worse than what it was in 2014,” Barghathi declared to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Approving a new constitution should be achieved through concessions, he added. “The alternative is more terrorism, suffering and foreign meddling.”

Commenting on Egyptian-sponsored efforts to unite the Libyan military, Barghathi said: “We support any effort that leads to the reconciliation.”

He remarked however that he has yet to attend any of the Egypt talks.

On the security in the eastern region and whether it has indeed been rid of armed groups, the minister noted: “As long as there is no national unity government that represents all Libyans, then terrorism will persist in the East, the West and everywhere.”

Addressing the peace efforts of United Nations special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh and if he was “running around in circles,” Barghathi remarked: “We do not blame him, but we blame our leaders.”

“He summed up the situation perfectly when he said that some sides are creative in putting obstacles,” he noted.

“It appears that he has not found people who have a real desire to unite the country. Nothing can be achieved without this will,” he stressed.

Returning to the issue of Seif al-Islam, he said that he was still present in Libya.

“The people’s conviction and my conviction has been from the very beginning that there is nothing preventing him from practicing his political rights,” he revealed.

“This is now a popular conviction. He is in Libya and I believe that he is part of the solution and one of its main factors,” he stated.

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