TRIPOLI — The Libyan national army graduated its first batch of soldiers drawn from the ranks of former rebels in the capital of Tripoli, a military officer said March 4.
“This is the first military unit formed by the national army in Tripoli,” Col. Omar Abdullah said of the graduating class of 225 troops.
“It is a symbol of revolutionaries being streamlined into a system with a mission of protecting the state,” he added, gesturing to the men in khaki.
The national army in Libya, which has been refashioning itself after the toppling of slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in October, is trying to recruit and train former rebel fighters.
“Our doors are open to all revolutionaries,” the colonel told AFP.
The newly established 23 of October brigade takes its name from the date when the now ruling National Transitional Council of Libya declared “liberation” of the country from Gadhafi’s 42-year-old rule.
The unit received four months of training in military drills and security measures, including the protection of important personalities, self-defense and disarming opponents, a graduate said.
“This is a big chance for us to protect a country which is finally ours,” said Ala Naser al-Din, 31, a resident of Souk al-Jumaa neighborhood, scene of clashes when Tripoli was overrun by anti-Gadhafi fighters in August.
Libyan authorities have repeatedly urged former rebels across Libya to return to civilian life or fall under the authority of the interior or defense ministries.
However, in the eastern city of Benghazi, revolutionary brigades this week staged two days of protests in front of the Ouzu hotel demanding payment and calling for the interior minister’s resignation, an AFP correspondent said.