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Abdul Jalil appoints head of Libyan armed forces, warns of civil war

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The chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil appointed Yousef al-Manqoush as head of the armed forces in the first significant move to build a new Libyan military and warned that the country could descend into a civil war following deadly clashes in Tripoli.

“A decision was issued today by the National Transitional Council to appoint Mr. Yousef al-Manqoush chief of staff,” the official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Manqoush is a retired army general who joined efforts to end Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule, the official, who asked not to be named, said.

The appointment came after six were killed in clashes that erupted in the center of Tripoli on Tuesday between gunmen from Misurata and NTC forces.

Abdul Jalil warned Libyans that the country could descent into a civil war if they resort to arms to settle their differences, Al Arabiya TV reported.

Tuesday’s fighting broke out at a building used as intelligence headquarters by the former regime of slain dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Former rebels who remain organized in militia brigades are visible in many parts of the Libyan capital, and some have taken control of former government buildings, using them as headquarters.

Some witnesses near the scene told AFP that forces from the new government’s interior ministry tried on Tuesday to retake the intelligence building, provoking a clash with the militia group that is currently occupying it.

While those reports could not be independently verified, the interior ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP, saying only that it would comment on the clashes in the coming hours.

AFP sources said militiamen had blocked traffic from reaching the building, even as two ambulances tried to access the area of unrest, with witnesses reporting a number of injuries.

Many gunmen could also be seen circulating in the area and the situation remained chaotic, according to AFP reporters on the scene.