Protesters attack NTC's Benghazi headquarters

Libyans frustrated with pace of reforms break through gate of ruling council's compound, throwing at least one grenade.

    Protesters are demanding more transparency from NTC officials such as chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil (C) [REUTERS]

    Around 200 protesters frustrated with the pace of reforms in Libya have attacked the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, witnesses say.

    At least one grenade was thrown on Saturday evening as the attackers broke through the gate and into the compound housing the council's offices, but there were no reports of casualties.

    Residents in Benghazi have been protesting for nearly two weeks, demanding more transparency and justice from the country's new leaders. There are more protests planned beginning in February to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the revolt that overthrew longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    The attack, in the city that was the cradle of the uprising, took place as protesters demonstrated outside the NTC office, witnesses and an NTC member told the AFP news agency.

    "People were protesting in front of the NTC office and then one grenade was thrown at the office," an NTC member told AFP.

    Once inside, protesters, including some who were injured in the conflict, sought out NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who was visiting Benghazi. They demanded he sack his second in command, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, who was mobbed and attacked last week at Benghazi University.

    "We demanded many times before to compensate the injured people and to provide those people with intensive care,
    but no one respond to our demands. Benghazi has been neglected," protester Ahmed Taher told Reuters.

    Some have pitched tents outside the NTC's headquarters to protest against a set of election laws they say were drafted by the interim leaders without consulting the public.

    The laws will relax a ban on NTC members running for office and do away with a proposed quota for women's seat, according to a Western diplomat.

    The council only took into account public suggestions through an online survey. Elections are set for June.

    "The election laws have not been approved by thousands of Libyans and do not honour those who died for our freedom,''  Tamer al-Jahani, a lawyer taking part in the protest, said. "We don't want to replace one tyrant with another."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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