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Libya's rebels, a house divided

world Updated: Oct 21, 2011 03:00 IST

Jockeying for power among Libya's well-armed and fractious new leadership may intensify after the death of deposed autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, an anxious and, for many, joyous moment in a country hungry for stability and impatient to swap the bullet for the ballot box.

The interim government will be determined to ensure that lingering pro-Gaddafi forces cannot launch any rearguard guerrilla insurgency from the countryside that could destabilise the nation and its oil industry.

One of Gaddafi's most politically influential sons, Saif al-Islam, and his security chief Abdullah Sanussi are apparently still at large and may still be able to recruit armed followers.

But perhaps the most important test for the interim National Transitional Council will be manage the enormous expectations of Libya's 6 million people, now freed definitively from the fear that Gaddafi could ever reimpose his long strongman rule.

"There is now this massive expectation. Up to now they've had an excuse that they are running a war. They don't have that now...Everything now has got to happen," John Hamilton, a Libya expert at Cross Border Information, said. "They have to deliver for the people," he said.

Libya's ruling NTC should now begin the task of forging a new democratic system which it had said it would get under way after the city, built as a showpiece for Gaddafi's rule, had fallen.

Some fear instability may linger and unsettle that process.

"Gaddafi is now a martyr and thus can become the rallying point for irredentist or tribal violence," said George Joffe, a north Africa expert at Cambridge University.

Some also worry that the politicking involved in forming a new government in the coming days may strain to the limit the alliance of convenience between forces that constituted the armed opposition to Gaddafi. Now he is gone, the glue that held the alliance together may fade.

In recent weeks Tripoli has seen an apparent competition for the title of top militia in the capital, where the many armed groups now exercising authority in the city portrayed themselves as the sole legitimate security force.

US Republican Senator John McCain called on the NTC during a visit to Libya last month to move quickly to get the armed groups under their control.

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