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Divisions Emerge Over Libya's Next Steps

SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. In Libya, victorious rebels are struggling to organize themselves after taking over Tripoli and sending Moammar Gadhafi into hiding. There's a lack of water, medicine and basic supplies in the capital. A stabilization committee's been formed. Among its members is a man that NPR profiled last May. He's from the city of Misrata, west of Tripoli, that saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the Libyan War.

MOHAMMED BIN RAS ALI: I've seen young men who have just vanished, you know. We didn't have one bone to collect. So many horrific injuries and horrific deaths. I've seen a piece of a man being buried, just this little piece. I never thought I'll ever see that in my life.

SIMON: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has a follow-up on this man's story reported from the Libyan capital.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: We couldn't use his full name before because he was afraid of reprisals against his family. It was in the midst of the worst of the fighting in his home city of Misrata and it wasn't clear which way things would go. Mohammed Bin ras Ali is a prominent businessman, and during the Misrata siege, he was also a councilmember organizing money and support for the rebels there. These days, he's one of the more prominent members of the Tripoli stabilization committee. He's dealing with security in the city but also advises on many other issues.

ALI: We had a meeting about border control...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The committee is what passes for a government in Tripoli now, Mohammed says, dealing with everything from borders to garbage collection. The Rebel National Transitional Council is still primarily based in Benghazi, which has led to an uncomfortable split. Mohammed says there's an increasing sense of dissatisfaction in Tripoli and elsewhere with the rebel leadership.

ALI: Where is the NTC? It's our group of guys who are the stabilization force, who are going, you know, around all the places trying to get some kind of normality back and some kind of services back. Where is the executive office in Tripoli eight days later?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Late Friday, the head of the council said it will relocate to Tripoli next week. It's not clear if the move will placate the critics though. And this is the new Libyan reality. After months of brutal fighting and bloodshed comes nation building in a country unused to the ways of democracy. The concern has always been that what has kept the disparate group of rebels together was their hatred of Gadhafi. Now that he's no longer in power, infighting could cripple the nascent political leadership in the country.

ALI: I think the executive office have to send a strong message of unity and organization. This vacuum, this chaos sends the wrong signal to everybody.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there are regional divisions too. Misrata paid the heaviest price of the fighting in Libya. The city was practically destroyed during a month's long siege of it by Gadhafi forces with the fighting largely over, the people in Misrata and elsewhere have taken to the streets in protest. Mohammad says the people there are upset that officials of the old regime are getting positions in the rebel council. Many Gadhafi ministers defected only in the final weeks of the regime. And yet, in an attempt to be inclusive, Mohammed says they are being brought into the fold by the prime minister of the rebel council, Mahmoud Jibril.

ALI: We think that Mr. Jibril is sending all the wrong signals. It's a wakeup call for him. We are warning him, and I say welcome to democracy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mohammed says the people here have fought too hard and lost too much to let bygones be bygones. He says Gadhafi's people have a lot to answer for, and they should be called to account instead of being allowed to serve the rebels.

ALI: We think our revolution is being hijacked. We will never allow that. Eighteen ambassadors were appointed - 16 of them were Gadhafi ambassadors. That's not acceptable. People wonder what the revolution was all about if it carries on like this, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro NPR News, Tripoli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.