New force to man Libyan-Tunisian crossing

Interior security border guards take over Ras Ajdir crossing from Libyan fighters as it is reopened after three weeks.

    The Tunisian-Libyan border post of Ras Ajdir has been reopened after being shut over security concerns [AFP]

    A new force of border guards in Libya was deployed at the key crossing with Tunisia, marking the first time an interior ministry force from the transitional government has taken responsibility since the ouster of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    Former rebels had been in control of the Libyan side of Ras Ajdir crossing for at least two months. It is the primary crossing between Tunisia and Libya, and is on a major trade route to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

    "The revolutionaries helped secure the border crossing over the previous period, and now they have handed it over to the interior ministry which will supervise it from now on," Omar Al-Khadrawy, interior ministry secretary, said on Thursday.

    Tunisia had requested that Libya put professional border guards at the crossing. Tunisian authorities closed it for two weeks earlier this month due to repeated confrontations with fighters and the infiltration of armed men into Tunisia.

    Restructuring security

    Brigadier Kamel Aoun, Libyan head of security for the Ras Ajdir crossing, said the official reopening means that the interior ministry now has control over the border. He also said there is new equipment such as computers and scanners at the border to regulate the process of crossing.

    The uniformed border guards' presence at Ras Ajdir is part of a restructuring of security after eight months of civil war this year. There were fierce battles in the region as the two sides fought for control of the key crossing point.

    Gaddafi, who was in power for 42 years, was captured and killed in October.

    Main opposition figure during the eight-month uprising, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, had pledged this month that a new police force and a national army would be formed by mid-March.

    The Libyan side of the crossing was closed for more than a month and it was only reopened on Thursday with some restrictions on who could cross.

    Tunisian and Libyan nationals are allowed to return home through the crossing, but Libyans are not allowed into Tunisia and Tunisians are not allowed into Libya through Ras Ajdir.

    Libyan authorities said they need more time to standardise the crossing procedures under the new border guard force before the crossing can handle large numbers of travelers from both countries.

    Foreigners and migrant workers are allowed to cross, and the border is open for the flow of goods between the two nations.

    Trade between the two neighbors in 2010 was $2.5bn, but both countries' economies have been ravaged by this year's uprisings in which their longtime leaders were toppled.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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