FILE PHOTO: Libya’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha attends an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia March 1, 2020. Picture taken March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) on Thursday restored the interior minister to his post after announcing his suspension last week following protests over living conditions.
Fathi Bashagha said in a statement posted online that he had been reinstated after a five-hour hearing about the protests and the role of the security forces.
An influential figure from the port city and military power base of Misrata, Bashagha is well regarded by the GNA’s foreign backers and played a central role as it repelled a 14-month assault on Tripoli by eastern-based forces.
However, there have been longstanding tensions between armed groups from Tripoli and Misrata, and friction was reported recently between Bashagha and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
Armed groups in Tripoli had used gunfire to disperse protesters. Bashagha’s interior ministry said it would protect the protesters.
Bashagha, who was visiting the GNA’s main ally Turkey when he was suspended, was met on his return by his supporters and a convoy of military vehicles from Misrata.
The protests, including some attended by hundreds of people, have focused on a worsening electricity crisis with blackouts lasting for much of the day even after the assault on Tripoli ended in June.
The unrest coincides with a surging coronavirus outbreak in Libya and Serraj’s declaration of a full lockdown to limit its spread was seen by critics as a means of curbing the protests.
Reporting by Tripoli newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall; editing by Tom Brown