By Ahmed Elumami and Nihal Zaroug.
The Chief of Staff, Major-General Yousef Mangoush, has quit. He submitted in his resignation to Congress . . .[restrict]this afternoon following yesterday’s bloody incident in Benghazi in which 31 people died in clashes between members of the First Brigade of the Libya Shield Forces (Deraa 1) and protestors who were demonstrating outside the brigade’s headquarters, demanding the force be disbanded.
Salem Al-Gnaidy, the deputy Chief of Staff, has reporetdly been asked by Congress to take over pending a new appointment by Congress.
Before resigning Mangoush put out a statement condemning what had happened and announced that the four Shield brigades in Benghazi would become army units. Deraa Battalion No.1 would be under the control of the Army Forces and Deraa Battalions Nos. 2, 7 and 10 would be under the control of Tank Battalion No.204, Marine and Air Defence Forces.
It is not known if these changes will now take place. Following the killings, there are growing demands in Benghazi and throughout the country that the Shield forces be disbanded altogether and members transfer as individuals into the armed forces.
Mangoush is viewed as directly implicated in yesterday’s events. The first brigade was under his direct control. It is locally viewed as pro-Islamist and anti-federalist. Its presence in Kufra last year is said to have contributed to the violence there and it was withdrawn following demands by Tebus.
As Chief of Staff, his position was already crumbling. Congress’ Defence Committee voted in April to replace him. A month ago, Congress as a whole decided to formally appoint someone to the job, although it was said at the time that he could be a candidate.
Mangoush’s stepping down is seen as long overdue by the many who had called for his dismissal because of the continued lack of security in the Benghazi. The city has been plagued with assassinations of retired and active security officials, and targeting of government and diplomatic missions, one of which lead to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US personnel during an attack on the American mission in Benghazi on 11 September last year.
Meanwhile today, the spokesman for the General Staff appeared to put some of the blame for yesterday’s events on the protestors.
“Deraa 1 Battalion is a subsidiary force which belongs to the Libyan army,” Ali Shiekhi told the Libya Herald, “and the attack on it represented an attack on a legitimate battalion. This is a serious matter.”
He said that those who protested in front of Deraa Battalion should have had permission.
“Investigations are underway to determine the circumstances of the incident because there are rumours that Deraa Battalion was the first to fire,” Sheikhi added. [/restrict]