TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A Libyan militia chief said on Sunday his fighters had captured nine supporters of overthrown leader Muammar Gaddafi who had been plotting to blow up Tripoli’s power grid on New Year’s eve.
“We captured explosives with them that they bought from the black market and now we’re interrogating them,” the commander of Tripoli’s Revolutionist Council Abdullah Naker told Reuters.
Militia groups who helped oust Gaddafi last year still hold considerable power in Libya, and have taken the law into their hands in several areas, setting up road blocks and arresting suspects despite the presence of an official police force.
Naker said the nine Gaddafi supporters had been funded by a group of businessmen affiliated to the former leader, who was killed in October after militias overran his home town of Sirte.
Naker also accused the nine and their supporters of trying to relaunch the former leader’s official television station Al Jamahiriya.
The men had been planning to set off a number of explosions in the capital, state media reported, quoting a statement from Libya’s electricity and renewable energy authority.
Libya’s interim government set a deadline that expired on December 20 for militias to leave Tripoli, and most withdrew their fighters and dismantled checkpoints last week.
Naker said a number of bands returned to the capital on Saturday, in a show of strength to Gaddafi supporters that he said were still at large, threatening the country.
Libya’s interim rulers are trying to persuade thousands of militia fighters to join the military, police and civil service to try to break up the forces controlled by rival commanders with regional allegiances.
Naker and other militia chiefs have said they want guarantees that their men will be paid well by the government before letting them go.