Libyan PM demands cease-fire in Benghazi

Tripoli, Nov 12 (IANS) Libya’s UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Serraj on Saturday demanded immediate cease-fire in the eastern city of Benghazi, condemning shelling on the city.

“The Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord strongly condemns the shelling on public and private areas in the city of Benghazi on Friday and Saturday, which caused damage and losses,” Serraj said in a press release on Saturday, Xinhua reported.

“The government calls for calm and immediate cessation of military actions, which will lead only to further division,” the press release said, stressing that the role of security directorates of the Ministry of the Interior in Benghazi is “limited to securing citizens”.

Benghazi has been witnessing security tensions since Friday, after the headquarters of the Deputy Interior Minister of Serraj’s government, Faraj Eg’em, was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades, killing three security personnel and injuring nine others. Eg’em’s convoy was also attacked last week, and one security guard was killed.

Speaking to a local TV channel on Friday, Eg’em accused the army of carrying out the attack. He also demanded that Bokhmada, the army’s special forces commander, should be the general commander of the army within 48 hours, replacing the current army commander General Khalifa Haftar.

Following Eg’em’s statement, the army on Saturday stormed his headquarters in Benghazi, confiscated all the military vehicles inside it, and besieged his forces which fled to the nearby town of Bersis.

Despite signing a UN-sponsored peace agreement by the country’s political rivals and appointment of the Government of National Accord in 2015, Libya remains politically divided amid insecurity and chaos.