Tripoli, 17 December:
The General National Congress (GNC) declared much of the south a closed military zone on Sunday evening and announced that it would temporarily close the borders with Niger, Chad, Sudan and Algeria, state news agency LANA reported.
GNC members passed the exceptional legislation with a majority of 136, designating the areas around Ghadamis, Ghat, Awbari, Al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra as closed zones of military operations.
Members also voted to close Libya’s southern borders, but said that they would reopen them at an undesignated time in coordination with their neighbouring states.
According to the legislation, the Ministry of Defence must appoint a military governor for the south, who will be given full powers to arrest those currently wanted for crimes in the area.
Before the Ministry of Defence chooses the governor and his aides, however, it must consult with the GNC.
The legislation said that the military governor, when appointed, must take all steps to secure Libya’s southern borders, and the GNC will assist him in his task by providing all necessary support to him.
Unrest and insecurity has continued to plague much of the south since the end of last year’s revolution, with the state exercising only the most minimal control over many areas. Earlier this month, some 20 southern GNC Congressman walked out of Congress in protest at what they called “the deteriorating security in their region” and the government’s failure to address these concerns.
The walkout came on the same day as a mass jail breakout in Sebha, which saw 197 inmates escape with the possible assistance of prison guards.
The GNC’s decision yesterday evening comes two days after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan returned from a six-day tour of Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan, where he discussed drug, people and weapon trafficking between the countries.
Smuggling across the porous southern borders has been a major problem in the past, and attempts to seal crossings with Libya’s neighbours have met with little success. [/restrict]