Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Sunday said the nation would fall into a “civil war” if the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) resigned, as it faced its first major challenge.
Angry protests in the eastern city of Benghazi — the city which first rebeled against former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi last year — have dealt a severe blow to the NTC’s functioning. It led its deputy head Abdel Hafiz Ghoga to resign on Sunday, three days after furious students had manhandled him.
“We are not going to resign because it would lead to civil war,” NTC head Abdel Jalil said in an interview on the Libya al-Hurra television station late Sunday as protests raged in Benghazi.
Abdel Jalil said that some “hidden hands” were “pushing the demonstrators.”
“Who is pushing these sit-ins prompting protesters to invade the headquarters of the council with such savagery?” he said, referring to the attack on NTC offices in Benghazi Saturday.
Crowds of protesters threw several home-made grenades at and stormed the NTC offices with iron rods and stones before setting the building’s front ablaze, witnesses and council members said.
They even threw plastic bottles at Abdel Jalil, who is respected across Libya for his active role in the anti-Qaddafi rebellion. He had to be escorted out of the premises.
Benghazi protesters rampaged through the NTC’s offices, denouncing what they said is a “non-transparent” body. The protesters also accused the NTC of having marginalized some wounded veterans of the uprising that toppled Qaddafi in favor of people who were previously loyal to the slain dictator.
Defending the NTC, Abdel Jalil paid tribute to Ghoga, despite the fury of the protesters.
“We must praise the role played by Abdel Hafiz Ghoga. He chose his country before himself,” Abdel Jalil said.
His onetime deputy had supported the anti-Qaddafi revolution when others “were in Egypt or hidden elsewhere.”
Ghoga stepped down after about 4,000 students protested against him at the University of Ghar Yunis.