İrem UZUN -TDO- Libya's internationally recognized government suspended its interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, on Friday, saying his handling of street protests and a violent crackdown against them would be investigated. According to the TRT World’s news report, an administrative investigation will be launched by the Presidential Council of Libya regarding Bashagha within 72 hours.

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 said in a statement posted on the interior ministry’s Facebook page early on Saturday that he was ready to submit to an investigation.  But he demanded any hearing be broadcast live for the sake of transparency.

Demonstrations began on Sunday in Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, against poor public services and living conditions, and gunmen fired on the crowd. Similar shootings occurred on Monday and Wednesday.  Gunmen on Wednesday attacked a peaceful demonstration by “firing live ammunition indiscriminately,” Bashagha had said.

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