Libyans hand over hundreds of weapons to army
- 30 September 2012
- From the section Africa
Hundreds of Libyans have handed in weapons in Benghazi and Tripoli as part of a disarmament drive organised by the army to target militia groups.
Assault rifles, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers and even tanks were among military hardware handed in.
The call to transfer weapons to Libya's army was promoted through a private television station.
It apparently gained momentum after the US ambassador was killed in Benghazi, sparking resentment of armed militias.
The groups that emerged during the fight to topple Col Muammar Gaddafi last year remain a powerful force in the country.
Need for stability
Libya's interim leader, Mohammed Magarief, vowed to disband all illegal militias in the aftermath of Ambassador Christopher Stevens' death on 11 September.
In Benghazi, one of the organisers, Ahmed Salem, said that over 800 citizens had handed in weapons at the main collection point, the Associated Press reports.
Over 600 different types of arms were collected.
In Tripoli, two tanks were among the weapons handed in by at least 200 former fighters at Martyrs' Square.
The television station which collaborated on the arms drive, Libya al-Hurra or Free Libya, broadcast live footage of the collection and transfer of weapons to military barracks on Saturday.
The army's chief-of-staff said Libyans needed stability.
"They are handing over weapons to the military so that they are kept in the right place and not on the streets," Yussef al-Mangoush said, according to Reuters.
He said he hoped the collection would also expand to other Libyan cities.
The government has estimated that over 200,000 people in Libya are armed. Previous attempts to disarm people have had little support.
Former anti-Gaddafi fighters were among those who gave their weapons to the army.
"When I saw the announcement on television I came to Benghazi with my wife and son to hand over my weapon to the national army because I want to move from the stage of the revolution to state building," Moussa Omr told AP.
"I don't need this weapon after today, the militias have been expelled from Benghazi and the national army will protect us."