by Omar al-Saleh
Libyan authorities lost control of Tripoli airport on Monday when militiamen from Tarhouna, angry about the possible arrest of their commander, occupied the runway. They finally regained control after an hours-long standoff. What does this mean for the Libyan government, and for the new Libya?
It seems any group with men and weapons can act at will and do whatever they like, reinforcing the perception that the interim government is weak and can’t protect a vital institution like the airport.
The government is desperate to show it can do the job. That's why it is using force to retake the airport. But similar incidents and attacks took place before, including a brazen attack on the office of the prime minister just over a month ago.
This incident brings into question the ability of the government to hold general elections, initially said to be in June but postponed to July. If a government can’t protect the country’s main airport, would it be able to protect the whole nation during polls?
Another point is that the government and the NTC have both failed in ending the presence of armed revolutionaries who fought against Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Many brigades in Libya are operating with impunity – closing off areas, arresting people and running their own prisons.
Calm might have been restored at the airport, but there are ramifications. The fate of the disappeared Colonel Abu Ajila al-Habshi, the Tarhouna commander, needs to be known.
There is speculation as to who might have taken Habshi. Some say he was kidnapped by Gaddafi loyalists, because many in Tarhouna did not support the revolution and want to create security problems.
Some say he was arrested by government forces. Others suggest he might have been targeted because a he’s well known figure with a good military future ahead of him.
Whatever the truth is, his disappearance - if not solved - can cause further unrest and clashes.
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