Libya’s internationally recognised government suspended its interior minister on Friday, saying his handling of street protests and a violent crackdown against them would be investigated.
The move coincides with reports of growing friction between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), and Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, an influential figure from the port city and military power base of Misrata.
In a statement late on Friday, the GNA said Bashagha “has been temporarily suspended” and will face an inquiry “on his statements about the protests and incidents in Tripoli and other cities”.
He will be questioned on the permits granted to the demonstrators, the security arrangements in place and the “violations committed”, it said.
Bashagha, who was nominated in 2018, played a central role during a 14-month offensive on Tripoli by eastern-based forces that the GNA repelled in June with military support from Turkey.
He is well regarded by the GNA’s international backers, and had announced steps to rein in the armed groups that hold real power in Tripoli. Loud gunfire could be heard over central Tripoli shortly after the suspension decision was announced, according to Al Jazeera reports