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Libyan Rebels Open Fire in National Government Building

A group of former Libyan rebels stormed the national government’s headquarters, demanding unpaid wages, the Libya News Agency reported. Gunfire was heard from inside the building, eyewitnesses said.

A delegation from the rebels was meeting with government officials, the Tripoli-based agency reported, citing its correspondent. Another reporter at the scene, Ismail Mohamed, said in a telephone interview from Tripoli that he heard gunshots inside the building. He had no details on whether anyone had been killed or injured.

The afternoon attack on the building that houses the office of Libya’s interim prime minister reflected the country’s security challenges in the months since Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in the end of an eight-month uprising. The ruling National Transitional Council has struggled to restore order in the country, with national legislative elections slated for next month.

The building was seized in the morning by a militia from Kikla, a settlement in the Jabal Nafusa mountains, 70 miles southwest of the capital, Abdul Zeli, who was among the Tripoli militiamen who surrounded the building after the gunmen stormed it, said in an interview. It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm a report by Al Arabiya television that two people were killed in the incident.

Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib’s whereabouts were not immediately known. He was no longer in the building, Abdul Zeli said. The streets around the building, which is also near the headquarters of the National Oil Corp., were blocked off by a dozen jeeps, each mounted with heavy machine guns.

“We don’t know what is going on. The Kikla guys are inside the building,” he said. “They say nobody paid them, they want to be paid.”

The government has made a single payment of 500 dinars ($399) to former rebels, an amount that has failed to appease many of the fighters who have refused to disband or disarm until officials grant them more services for their various regions.

-- With assistance from Saleh Sarrar in Tripoli. Editors: Digby Lidstone, Karl Maier

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