By Callum Paton, Ashraf Abdul Wahab and Taher Zaroog.
Tripoli/Misrata, 22 May 2014:
The Libyan Government has called on armed groups – namely . . .[restrict]Libya Central Shield, Qaaqaa and Sawaq brigades – to leave Tripoli as the brigades squared up in the capital this evening.
Members of the Misratan-based Libya Central Shield arrived on the outskirts of Tripoli today, stationing themselves in the Salaheddin district, where clashes took place in the early hours of yesterday morning. It is not clear how many Shield troops have arrived in Tripoli but estimates range upwards from several hundred.
The government ordered Libya Central Shield, Qaaqaa and Sawaq brigades to withdraw from the city on the grounds that their presence threatened the lives of residents and has kept them in a state of fear for the past two days. It added that the current atmosphere of political sabre-rattling threatened the country, and the existence of multiple forces on the ground could result in serious losses.
It said it would hold the General National Congress (GNC) responsible for any of Libya Central Shield’s actions, because Congress head Nuri Abu Sahmain had called on them to protect the capital. All political forces in country should unite and bear responsibility for the current national crisis, the government said.
In a statement released earlier today Libya Central Shield said it had come to Tripoli as a neutral force, with no allegiance to either the GNC or the government. The sole purpose of its presence in the capital was to protect institutions and civilians, it said, adding that it was ready to facilitate a national dialogue between all conflicting parties.
The Government also asked the GNC to show its willingness to hold prompt elections, saying these should take place no later than a month from today. It also voiced frustration that Congress had not responded to its demands to hold a second round of elections to elect a Prime Minister, pass a budget and then cease its activities.
The streets of Tripoli were quiet, but not deserted this evening, with some shops and businesses closing early. [/restrict]