TRIPOLI, Libya -- Gunmen swooped in on trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns and surrounded Libya's Justice Ministry yesterday, cutting off roads and forcing employees out of the building in the latest instance of powerful militiamen showing their muscle to press their demands on how Libya should be run more than a year after Moammar Gadhafi's ouster.
Over the past three days, militiamen stormed the headquarters of the Interior Ministry and state-run TV and besieged the Foreign Ministry while publicly calling for the removal of Gadhafi-era officials from government posts and the passage of the so-called "isolation law," which would bar from political life anyone who held any position -- even minor -- under the ousted autocrat's regime.
However, analysts and democracy advocates believe militiamen are using the isolation law as a way to get rid of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who has vowed to restore the authority of the state and disband the armed groups that have become a power unto themselves in Libya. Many of the militias have an Islamist ideology, while Zidan is seen as more secular and liberal.
"In essence this is a power struggle between liberals and Islamists. This is a very dangerous turn that could force Zidan to step down," political analyst Saad al-Arial said.