Libyan anti-Gaddafi gunmen 'lift siege of ministries'

Armed men outside Libya's justice ministry in Tripoli on 30 April 2013
Image caption Guns were parked outside the justice ministry

Gunmen demanding the expulsion of Gaddafi-era officials from Libya's new government appear to have lifted their siege of two ministries in Tripoli.

Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani told the BBC the siege had ended at both his ministry and the foreign ministry.

The gunmen blocked the buildings two weeks ago, parking pick-up trucks with anti-aircraft guns outside.

Parliament passed a law last week barring Gaddafi-era officials from political office.

About 1,000 civilians came to demonstrate outside the foreign ministry on Friday night but some were attacked and beaten, their placards torn down by the gunmen, the BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli.

Minister's appeal

Mr Marghani said his ministry was back under the control of the judicial police and staff had been at work on Saturday "for a couple of hours".

Image caption Government supporters rallied near the foreign ministry on Friday

"We hope this does not happen again and that lessons have been learnt that state institutions should not be touched," he added.

"The use of weapons should not be on the table. It causes all sorts of problems for this emerging democracy."

He said an agreement had been reached that the foreign ministry would be handed back to officials on Sunday.

The gunmen were calling for a political isolation law to be passed banning officials who served under the late Muammar Gaddafi from senior government posts.

Since Gaddafi's death, Tripoli and other Libyan cities have been plagued by violence and infighting.

The government has recently tried to dismantle militias that formed during and after the war that toppled the long-time leader.

The bill passed by parliament has been criticised for being too vague, but as it stands, would likely affect several currently serving officials.

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