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Libya army chief survives bid on his life
Recently appointed head survives ambush, as government pledges to "forgive" pro-Gaddafi soldiers.
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2011 03:38
The government opened a conference on national reconciliation in the capital Tripoli on Saturday [EPA]

Major General Khalifa Belgasim Heftir, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan national army, has survived an attempt on his life, according to his office.

Heftir's vehicle was shot at while on the way to airport in the capital Tripoli on Saturday morning.

Two vehicles had been waiting for the top military officer's convoy under a bridge, and opened fire as it passed.

Sergeant Abdel-Razil al-Shibahy, a military spokesman, said that no one in the convoy was harmed and that soldiers arrested the two gunmen, who are in military custody for questioning.

It was unclear who the two men were affiliated with.

Heftir was trained at Benghazi's military academy and in the Soviet Union, and defected from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's government in the 1990s, following the conflict between Libya and Chad. He then fled to the United States.

His nomination as chief of staff was met with opposition from some brigades in the Libyan army in November.

In a separate incident on Saturday, a gunfight near Tripoli's international airport, reportedly between two ex-rebel brigades, led to two fighters being wounded.

Samy Kamuka, an army official, told the AFP news agency that the firefight erupted when a group of former rebels from the Zintan brigade clashed with former rebels from Tripoli.

A member of the Zintan brigade, however, said it was the national army who had attacked his brigade while attempting to retake control of the airport from them.

The Zintan brigade's members are also holding Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam.

"There were clashes between [revolutionaries] from Tripoli and [revolutionaries] from Zintan [brigade] to take control of the airport," Kamuka, who works in the administration department, told AFP.

"The clashes were next to the airport but not in the airport. According to our information, two are wounded," he said.

Reconciliation process

Meanwhile, Libya's new rulers opened a conference on national reconciliation on Saturday with pledges to forgive anyone who fought on Gaddafi's side during the months-long uprising that led to his overthrow earlier this year.

"In Libya we are able to absorb all. Libya is for all," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the National Transitional Council, said in Tripoli as he launched the conference.

"Despite what the army of the oppressor did to our cities and our villages, our brothers who fought against the rebels as the army of Gaddafi, we are ready to forgive them," he said in Arabic remarks that were translated into English by an official.

"We are able to forgive and tolerate," he added.

The conference is the first of its kind since the NTC declared the complete "liberation" of Libya on October 23, and was attended by delegates from major Libyan tribes, as well as international delegates from Qatar and Tunisia.

Abdel Rahim al-Kib, the country's interim prime minister, echoed Jalil's sentiments.

"National reconciliation is an essential condition to build the constitutional institutions of a state," he told the conference. "The future cannot be built with revenge as a base."

He added, however, that anyone who "committed torture, rape, murders and stole public wealth [during the uprising] would have to be held accountable".

"Transitional justice is needed in order to reach reconciliation," Kib said.

Kib announced his government on November 22, just one month after the capture and killing of Gaddafi, who had ruled the country for 42 years.

The government is under pressure to disarm hundreds of former rebels who toppled the Gaddafi government and are now enforcing security on the streets under little or no accountability.

Source:
Agencies
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