Tripoli, 26 June:
Brigadier-General Hamid Hassi is commander of . . .[restrict]the Army of Cyrenaica, an organisation set up by the National Transitional Council to protect the region during the revolution. Libya Herald’s Ashraf Abdul-Wahab questioned him about its intentions. He has sometimes been seen as supporting federalism.
AA: What is the truth behind the cutting-off of the main road connecting between Benghazi and Tripoli at the Wadi Al-Ahmar (“The Red Valley” – the historic border between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica)?
HH: Yes, we put a checkpoint in the Wadi Al-Ahmar area but we did not try to prevent any vehicles belonging to the general public from driving across. We were only there to stop vehicles carrying weapons or any other forms of military equipment because we do not want any eastern forces or weapons reaching the western region for whatever reason.
AA: It’s said that you want to set-up an independent state in the eastern province, even if by force of arms if necessary?
HH: At the moment, we’re protesting over our demands for an equal number of seats in the National General Conference. We do not want the country divided.
AA: If you are only requesting to have equal seats, why then form an army which you’ve called “The Army of Cyrenaica”? Why did you not turn to the Constitutional and Supreme Courts or to peaceful protests?
HH: We have submitted a request to the Constitutional Court of Benghazi, but at the instructions of Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the appeal was rejected. However, we have submitted another one.
AA: Is the Army of Cyrenaica under with Ministry of Defence?
HH: No, the Cyrenaica Army is affiliated with the Chief of Staff because we do not approve of Ministry of Defense or the Defense Minister because he is a civilian and has no right to be head of a Military Ministry!
AA: Don’t you think by requesting federalism, division of the country and the formation of an independent army you will be in effect exposing yourselves to retribution of the law, which carries within its provisions the death penalty?
HH: This law has become null and void because it was made by the old tyrant.
AA: No, this law was in place since the 1950s, from the days of the Libyan Kingdom!
HH: No. Such laws have been altered and we do not approve if it.
AA: Do you still insist on supporting federalism and the division of the country, and are prepared to achieve that even it means using arms?
HH: No, we will not use force except if necessary. As it is, you can see the general situation in Libya — from Kufra to the Nafusa Mountains and to Sebha.
We insist that Tripoli remain the capital, but federalism is not about division. We want self-rule for Cyrenaica and be in control of our assets and capabilities. We have suffered marginalization for so long.
AA: Muhammed Al-Huti stated that the new borders of a free Cyrenaica are being drawn up and that you have prepared a list of the ministers of the new state. Would you have a role in this state?
HH: Muhammed Al-Huti is an internet blogger and we do not have anything to do with him. He is the one responsible for what he says.
AA: Are you satisfied with dividing Libya into east, west and south? Don’t you think that this might encourage other areas to request the same thing?
HH: Libya is currently divided and the best proof of that is that Misrata has now in effect a separate government, and Zintan likewise.
AA: Do you expect armed confrontation with the Libyan national army led by the Ministry of Defense?
HH: There is no Libyan national army in the first place. The Ministry of Defence is unable to form a national army. In any case, we are part of General Staff. So we don’t think the General Staff is going to send military forces to fight us.
Ashraf Abdul-Wahab adds: The Libyan Defense Minister Osama Juwaily was a former officer in the Libyan armed forces but was made redundant when the former regime decided to make employment cuts. Last year, he led most of the battles in the Nafusa Mountains in the fighting against Qaddafi’s troops.
There were also reports that the main road was blocked at Wadi Al-Ahmar and that coaches from Egypt on their way to Tripoli were made to turn back. Most of the passengers had to continue their journey to Tripoli by air. [/restrict]