* Man named to head security prevented from taking post
* Police officers refuse to accept sackings of leadership
* Government in Tripoli faces problem controlling Benghazi
* Second city in grip of militias, some hostile to West
BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Libyan police in
Benghazi have mutinied and refuse to serve under the man
appointed by the government to take over security following last
week's storming of the U.S. consulate in which the ambassador
and three other Americans were killed.
With no one clearly in charge in Libya's second city and
major oil port, the officer named by the government in Tripoli
to replace both Benghazi's police chief and the deputy interior
minister responsible for the eastern region told Reuters that he
had asked for the army to be sent in if he could not start work.
But as the appointee, Salah Doghman, spoke late on Tuesday,
police threatened to walk out en masse if the leadership switch
was forced through and accused central government in the capital
of making local officials scapegoats for its own failures.
Global attention has been focused on security in Benghazi
since Sept. 11, when a residential villa being used by the U.S.
mission was stormed after a violent protest about a film that
has provoked anger among Muslims worldwide. U.S. ambassador
Christopher Stevens died of smoke inhalation while trapped alone
inside the villa, and three other Americans were killed in the
attack and during a rescue attempt that followed.
The incident highlighted the lack of central security powers
in Libya and a proliferation of militias, a year after the fall
of Muammar Gaddafi in a revolt backed by the Western powers.
Wanis al-Sharif, the Libyan deputy interior minister based
in the east of the country, and Hussein bu Ahmeida, the chief of
police for Benghazi, were both fired by the interior ministry in
the wake of the attack, and Doghman was named to take up both of
their positions. But neither Sharif nor Ahmeida has left his
post and Doghman said he was unable to take up either job.
"THIS IS A MESS"
"These are very dangerous circumstances," Doghman told
Reuters in what are believed to be his first public comments
since being named to the two security positions four days ago.
"This is a mess," he said during an interview at his
apartment in a rundown district of the city where the 2011
uprising was born among a population Gaddafi had long scorned.
"When you go to police headquarters, you will find there are
no police," Doghman said. "The people in charge are not at their
desks. They have refused to let me take up my job.
"I have a paper, I have a statement from the minister
himself, saying I should take these two jobs. If I do not take
up these two jobs, people will not respect the government.
"I phoned the office of the interior minister. I told them,
'You must take action, even use the army if you have to, to
force the police to let me take up this job'."
At a news conference held inside the Benghazi Interior
Ministry headquarters across town, however, a spokesman for a
union of senior police officers loyal to the old police chief
said colleagues from across eastern Libya had met and threatened
to resign en masse if the dismissals were upheld.
"We see the decision taken by the minister of the interior
as an attempt to find a scapegoat for the minister's own failure
to address the security issue and to cover up the ineptitude of
his administration," said the spokesman, Izzedin al-Sazzani.
Benghazi, 1,000 km (600 miles) from Tripoli across largely
empty desert, is in the grip of a variety of armed groups,
including some made up of Islamist militants who openly proclaim
their hostility to democratic government and the West.
Some of these have been identified by local people as being
among those who were at the consulate protest last week. U.S.
officials have described the violence as a "terrorist attack".
The absence of a police chief in Benghazi is certain to add
to U.S. exasperation after what seem to have been fatal security
failures on the part of both the State Department and the Libyan
authorities obliged by treaty to protect foreign diplomats.
Amid security chaos in Benghazi, home to about one in 10 of
Libya's six million people, U.S. investigators have as yet been
unable to visit the burnt-out mission. A senior U.S. official
said on Wednesday that information so far suggested that the
assault was not planned for the anniversary of the Sept. 11,
2001 attacks on the United States but was "opportunistic" and
"evolved" over several hours out of the events in the area.
The Libyan government says it intends to track down the
perpetrators and has announced that it has made some arrests,
but it has not named any suspects nor given a full explanation
of who it believes was behind the attack.
Doghman, who described himself as a 27-year veteran of the
Libyan police, said he had not been briefed on the investigation
because he could not take up his new job. But he blamed the
attack on militia which were able to flourish because the police
force had not been properly managed by his predecessors.
"The militias have taken power because of the lack of
police," he said. "I will increase and improve the police force,
and then we can take power back from the militias step by step.
"America, Libya, the world, should know that in this
situation they should have the right person in place. Libyans
should know that there is firm leadership. If there had been
wise leadership, this attack could not have happened."
(Additional reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by