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Libya orders state security courts abolished

By Hadeel Al-shalchi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 26 2011 3:05 p.m. MDT

Revolutionary fighters fire from tanks towards Gadhafi troop positions in Sirte, Libya, Monday, Sep. 26, 2011. After NATO's heavy bombing on Sunday, hundreds of families are leaving the city. Some remain stranded on the outskirts due to lack of transportation or fuel.

Gaia Anderson, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya's transitional justice minister said Monday that he has approved a measure to abolish the country's state security prosecution and courts, which sentenced opponents of the old regime to prison.

At a press conference in Tripoli, Mohammed al-Alagi, part of Libya's new leadership after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, said he has signed a document to disband the bodies. The step still needs approval by the National Transitional Council that now runs the country.

"I am personally very happy to sign an approval to end the state security prosecution and court, and the state security appeals court," al-Alagi said.

He said the document includes a request to abolish a third court for special cases where many opposition members were sentenced to life terms in prisons like Abu Salim in Tripoli, where inmates were massacred by Gadhafi's regime.

Libyans are pressing forward with efforts to do away with some of the most hated remnants of the former regime even though fighting continues and the ousted leader's whereabouts remains unknown.

Hundreds of civilians fled Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte Monday to escape growing shortages of food and medicine and escalating fears that their homes will be struck during fighting between revolutionary forces and regime loyalists.

Anti-Gadhafi fighters launched their offensive against Sirte nearly two weeks ago, but have faced fierce resistance from loyalists holed up inside the city. After a bloody push into Sirte again over the weekend, revolutionary fighters say they have pulled back to plan their assault and allow civilians more time to flee.

NATO, which has played a key role in decimating Gadhafi's military during the Libyan civil war, has kept up its air campaign since the fall of Tripoli last month. The alliance said Monday its warplanes struck eight military targets near Sirte a day earlier, including an ammunition and vehicle storage facility and rocket launcher.

Sirte, 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, is one of the last remaining bastions of Gadhafi loyalists since revolutionary fighters stormed into the capital last month. The fugitive leader's supporters also remain in control of the town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, and pockets of territory in the country's south.

Civilians fleeing Sirte Monday described grave shortages of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine.

Eman Mohammed, a 30-year-old doctor at the city's central Ibn Sina Hospital, said the facility was short on most medicines and had no oxygen in the operating rooms. She said most days, patients who reach the hospital find no one to treat them because fuel shortages and fear keep staff from coming to work.

She said many recent injuries appear to be caused by revolutionary forces. "Most of the people killed or injured recently are from the shelling," she said.

Forces on the city's outskirts fire tank shells, Grad rockets and mortar rounds toward the city daily with little more than a general idea of what they are targeting. NATO, meanwhile, is operating in Libya under a mandate to protect civilians.

Mohammed, who is from the Warfala tribe that has traditionally supported Gadhafi, said most of the fighters in the city are armed volunteers fighting for personal reasons.

"There is a bloody aspect to it," she said, standing at a rebel checkpoint outside the city. "Many people died in the battlefield as martyrs, so their relatives are angry. It doesn't have to do with Gadhafi anymore. It's more about revenge than about anything else."

She said she didn't expect the fighters to surrender easily.

"It is just simple resistance, just those who lost relatives or who are defending their homes," she said.

Others said they also felt endangered by the fighting.

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