Benghazi, 20 September:
Police in Benghazi are defying the Government in Tripoli by refusing to serve under Colonel Salaheddin Daghman, the man appointed to take over security in the city following last week’s fatal attack on the US Consulate.
Daghman is due to replace Wanis Al-Sharif, the deputy minister with responsibility for eastern Libya, and Hussein Ahmedia, Benghazi’s chief of police, both of whom were sacked last week over their handling of the crisis.
“These are very dangerous circumstances,” Doghman told the Reuters news agency.
“When you go to police headquarters, you will find there are no police. The people in charge are not at their desks. They have refused to let me take up my job.”
Doghman said he had been directly instructed by Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal to take over responsibility for the two posts, and that the de facto mutiny by the Benghazi police threatened to undermine the authority of the government.
“I phoned the office of the interior minister. I told them, ‘You must take action, even use the army if you have to, to force the police to let me take up this job’,” he said.
Both Sharif and Ahmeida came in for intense criticism over their handling of last week’s attacks, which left US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
Questions were asked as to why it took so long for the security services to arrive at the scene, and how it was that the assailants knew of the location of a nearby safe house, the whereabouts of which was supposed to have been secret, in which two of the four Americans died.
Sharif was also criticised by numerous politicians over his account of what took place on 11 September.
The former deputy minister had initially claimed that nobody was inside the consulate at the time of the attacks, before changing his story to allege that militants had only begun their assault after coming under fire from men guarding the compound.
The explanation was derided as “ridiculous” by influential Congressman Salah Ajouda Jawdah, while National Congress Speaker Mohammed Magarief also refuted it, saying that the attack was premeditated.
It is understood that neither Sharif nor Ahmeida have left their posts, and that the police are threatening to walk out en masse if Doghman’s appointment is forced through.
“We see the decision taken by the Minister of the Interior as an attempt to find a scapegoat for the minister’s own failure to address the security issue and to cover up the ineptitude of his administration,” said the spokesman for a union of senior police officers, Izzedin al-Sazzani.
The crisis has cast yet another shadow over the outgoing government, which has largely failed to stamp its authority over Libya’s still-fragmented security infrastructure, and potentially compromises investigations into the attacks.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a team of FBI investigators had flown into Tripoli to assist the Libyan authorities with their enquiries.
It is believed that around seven or eight people have now been arrested in connection with the assault, with some 50 others still under investigation.