Libyans hand over weapons in arms collection drive

Army and TV station organize arms collection drive; Libya still awash with weapons after last year's war.

By REUTERS
September 30, 2012 02:52
1 minute read.
Libyan security officials

Libyan security officials 150. (photo credit: Screenshot)

 
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TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya - Hundreds of Libyans handed in weapons left over from last year's war on Saturday, part of a drive by the North African country to rid its streets of arms and crack down on rogue militia groups.


As the day went on, a trickle of people turned into longer lines in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi, where tents were set up in squares for military officials to collect arms, explosives and even rocket propelled grenade launchers.


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Amid a celebratory atmosphere, women and children looked on as men queued to turn over their weapons as they listened to a military marching band and pop music.


"We want our country to be safe and secure ... We don't want to see weapons anymore," Tripoli resident Mohammed Salama said, as he stood in line to hand over a rifle.


"We want to live our lives. The time of war is over."


Libya's new rulers have struggled to impose their authority on a country awash with weapons, and many Libyans are fed up with militias, formed during the war but which still patrol the streets and often take the law into their own hands.


A September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, in which the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed, was followed by anti-militia protests in the city last week, increasing pressure on the authorities to tackle insecurity.




The government has since taken a twin-track approach - vowing to dissolve rogue militias that operated without official government permission, but also offering public backing to many of the most powerful armed groups, which have official licenses to operate, as it seeks to build stronger security forces.


Saad Bakar, head of a small brigade in Benghazi, handed over rifles and ammunition on Saturday, saying he was ready to disband his group.


"We were waiting until today to make sure that the weapons go to the right place," he said. "We want to join the army as individuals."

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