By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 17 October:
The Supreme Security Committee is set to be dissolved by the end of this year according to Hashim Bishr, head of the SSC’s Tripoli branch.
Bishr says that the preparations have already started following instructions from the Ministry of Interior for the different security departments to provide their assessment of how many men they need to provide security to the people. The requirements will then be reviewed by a committee established by the Ministry of Interior following a decision passed earlier this month.
The SSC was created after a decision made by the NTC last year and it was later tasked to provide security to the capital, Tripoli, only. But after a revised decision passed by the NTC on 18 December 2011, the minister of interior, Fawzi Abdelal issued decision ‘388’ on 28 December creating different departments of the SSC.
The next day, another decision, ‘392’ was passed and the SSC was given more authority and asked to open branches in different cities across the country. The SSC now has 45 branches all over Libya.
Speaking to the Libya Herald, Bishr says that the reason the revolutionaries joined the SSC en masse was simple: the ministries of defence, labour and planning were still not ready to accept the fighters when registration for the SSC began.
“After the decision by the Ministry of Interior to make the SSC nationwide, we opened the doors to the revolutionaries. It was a time when the ministries of defence, labour and planning were not doing anything to accommodate the revolutionaries. We said there will be regular income and they all registered with the SSC as all they wanted was to somehow return to some kind of normality.”
Bishr says that although the numbers of revolutionaries registered with the SSC are very high, many of them are not working regularly with the SSC. “By the end of July this year, fighters almost ceased to join us and our strength, at the time, was 131,000 men throughout the country but only a fraction of those were actually coming on duty.
“As for Tripoli, the total number of registered fighters are 26,000 but only 11,675 are actually working. Others only show up in emergency situations; they are revolutionaries.”
Asked if the men who are not regularly working with the SSC are getting paid, Bishr replies in the affirmative: “Yes, they are being paid. They have our ID cards but only show up in extreme situations. But to be honest, we don’t mind it as at least they are not being involved in any criminal activities and not acting like a ticking bomb.”
Speaking of cash handouts, Bishr blames the chaotic circumstances during the revolution, which, he says, resulted in there being no proper way to determine who was actually a fighter and who was not.
“When the cash handouts started, everybody became a revolutionary. If the numbers are to be believed, there are over 200,000 revolutionaries that participated in the fight. It is not realistic at all.
“The same problem happened with the files of the injured fighters; suddenly everybody became an injured revolutionary,” he continues. “It is a nationwide problem and since there is no formal way to confirm who is actually a fighter, it is very difficult to solve it.”
Bishr says that the SSC was created as a transitional agency to cope with the large number of revolutionaries and now the Ministry of Interior has already started taking actions to dissolve it.
“The ministry has asked the different security departments to confirm how many men they need to maintain security in the country. It has also made a committee under the decision ‘1714’ to evaluate the demands and to select suitable fighters from the SSC.
“After the assessment, we’ll send our men to the relevant departments. For example, the Police Operations Centre has asked for 2,500 men. Those in charge of Tripoli’s general security have requested some 2,000 fighters. 500 will go to the criminal investigations department and similarly most of the fighters from the SSC will be drafted into these different security institutions where they will be professionally trained.”
Bishr also adds that after completing the requirements, remaining men will be transferred to the Ministry of Labour and other relevant departments. “Their files will then be forwarded to the relevant offices. Their salaries will still be paid by the Ministry of Interior until they are employed. It is just to send them in the right direction. The plans are all laid out by the ministry.
“The last of the SSC will be 500 men who will form rapid reinforcement units and 150 cars of the Police Patrolling Committee. We are hoping to dissolve the SSC by the end of this year so all the remaining forces will be transferred to police operations under the Ministry of Interior on 1 January 2013.”
Bishr says that the problems created by the revolutionaries stem mainly from the lack of progress made by the interim government when it failed to create jobs for the revolutionaries in time to avoid all this chaos.
Asked about the Buraq incident, Bishr says it took place about a week after an SSC unit was sent to the south following Interior Ministry instructions to arrest 45 people from the area wanted for attacking a radio station and forcefully playing Qaddafi-era songs on 9 September. “It was normal when the unit was dispatched. After a week some drunken man was involved in a problem in a local bank. The SSC rushed to the scene and was told by the people that he was hiding weapons in his home. When they raided the place, a woman rushed out of the house and she was killed in confusion.”
Bishr admits that the unit was too inexperienced to handle the situation. “It’s very unfortunate and regrettable that a woman was killed, the matter could have been solved without the bloodshed but the inexperienced unit asked for backup and tried to fight. Seven lives were lost and 13 men were injured from the SSC. A few were also injured from the other side.”
Asked about the recent incident in Abu Salim district where people were arrested for demonstrating against the siege of Bani Walid, Bishr says, “25 People were arrested initially when some protestors belonging to the Warfalla tribe came out in two different locations to protest against the siege of Bani Walid.
When the crowd grew in numbers, they started throwing stones and some of the people with rifles fired shots in the air. There were revolutionaries among those protesting too. The SSC area commander, Abdul Ghani Kikli tried to disperse the crowd by firing 14.5mm anti-aircraft guns in the air.
“Five of the protestors were released straight away as they were not involved in any wrongdoing. Whilst the other 20 will be released as soon as the investigations conclude,” says Bishr.
Speaking about the alleged involvement of SSC in destroying the Sufi shrines and especially the destruction of Al-Shaab mosque in Tripoli, Bishr says that it would have been done even in the absence of the SSC.
“It is not something that started recently; it is being going on in many different cities from last year. One [shrine] was destroyed in Obari earlier this week. You cannot know the exact motive as the loyalists can also exploit the issue and escalate it into bloodshed. We only tried to act wisely to avoid it [bloodshed].”
Asked about the absence of police from the streets, Bishr says that it will be solved once the revolutionaries join the police force. “They [policemen] know the law and cannot shoot, thus they are scared to return to work. It will be solved once the real revolutionaries join the police force and go to work with full authority, with uniform and ranks. The Ministry of Interior has already started the process to induct revolutionaries into the main police force.”
Explaining who should be categorised as a real revolutionary, Bishr says, “the ones who have proved themselves as just, disciplined and honest in the last eight months of service. They didn’t steal or beat the prisoners; everybody in the Ministry of Interior knows who is real and who is not.
“At the same time, we have been supporting the police until now. We have daily reports about how many complaints were registered and what is being done to rectify them.”
Asked about the coordination between the SSC with the Tripoli Military Council, Bishr says that the latter is just an administrative body and has no force.
“The Tripoli Military Council is more of an administrative body, in contact with the local military councils but it is not doing any of the big work. Even its security and all other arrangements are being handled by us.”
Bishr goes on to say that dissolving the Tripoli Military Council will not affect anything. “As far as the military council of Tripoli is concerned, it has no function now and can be dissolved.”
Asked what he’d do after the SSC is dissolved, he says: “personally, I would like to finish my studies once I’m done here. But I would be back in the same field to serve my country as soon as possible.”
Umar Khan can be found on Twitter @umarnkhan.