By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 24 September 2017:
There is rising tension in Tripoli tonight as the Presidency Council (PC) declared a state of emergency and banned a planned Martyrs’ Square rally tomorrow in support of entrepreneur and would-be presidential candidate Baset Igtet.
The Government of National Accord’s (GNA) interior ministry has called for all security forces to be ready to protect security in the capital.
There are reports of the movement of armed Islamists groups to the south and south east of the city. These are said to include Salah Badi’s Samoud force from Misrata and the Kani Brigade from Tarhouna.
It is being rumoured that they intend to seize Tripoli International Airport so that an aircraft carrying Igtet could land. If correct, there would be some irony in this, since it was Badi who was responsible for destroying the airport after the Zintanis were driven from it in 2014 at the start of the Libya Dawn takeover.
The militias believed to be poised on the outskirts of Tripoli are largely the same forces that were thrown back from the city in July, after the self-styled National Salvation Government led by Khalifa Ghwell had been ousted from its base in the Rixos, the home of the former parliament, the General National Congress. Presidency Council (PC) head Faiez Serraj called for international allies to strike the attackers unless they withdrew.
Last week, Haithem Tajouri, the leader of one of the main pro-PC militias in the capital, the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade (TRB), warned that he would not permit tomorrow’s planned Martyrs’ Square demonstration to go ahead.
“We respect the right of people to protest but the required security permissions must be obtained prior to that,” he told Al-Marsad online, adding “We are observing carefully suspected armed movements around Tripoli as we know who they are and what they are trying to do”.
It is understood Igtet supporters sought permission for the rally but the request was denied.
The lockdown of Martyrs’ Square today brought extensive traffic chaos and added to the general anxiety.