26 November 2013

Libya: Ansar Al-Sharia Threatens Benghazi

Photo: Mohammed El Shaiky/Xinhua
A scene of clashes in Benghazi (file photo).

Benghazi — Shops and schools across Benghazi shut down on Tuesday (November 26th), as residents responded to the city council's call for a 3-day general strike.

The move is to protest the clashes between the Libyan army and Ansar al-Sharia on Monday that left seven people dead and 50 injured.

On Tuesday, troops took control of key roads. Soldiers also occupied the Ansar al-Sharia headquarters in Ajdabiya. Local residents had attacked the site late Monday, forcing jihadists to flee.

Defence ministry officials were allegedly in talks with Ansar al-Sharia about safe passage out of the city on condition its fighters leave their weapons behind.

Meanwhile, Derna-based extremist Mahmoud Al-Barassi told Libya Al-Ahrar TV on Monday that anybody against Ansar Al-Sharia was "an enemy".

According to Libya Herald, the Ansar al-Sharia representative vowed that his group would fight supporters of democracy and secularism.

Al-Barassi also called the government, the General National Congress (GNC) and the Libyan Armed Forces "apostates".

The group controls areas of Benghazi, as well as Sirte and Derna, and has been blamed for bloody attacks against judges and security personnel.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan, fresh from talks with British and US officials in London on the violence wracking his country, flew into Benghazi late last night to meet with security officials.

Lawmakers will also visit Benghazi on Tuesday to engage in peace talks, GNC spokesman Omar Humaidan said.

But according to political activist Osama Oraibi, "We still have not gotten to the core of the problem."

Ansar al-Sharia and other militias would not have succeeded had they not found funds and legal cover, he told Magahrebia.

"The clashes that started in the early hours of the day and lasted until the afternoon confirmed without doubt that the government in Tripoli and the local council of Benghazi are unreliable," journalist Rim Barqi said.

Meanwhile, Tripoli residents took to the streets in support of their Benghazi brothers.

Dozens of protesters tallied in Jazair despite the cold weather, chanting "Long live Benghazi" and requesting protection for its people.

The sight of terrorised children and women struck a sensitive chord.

Noria Alghemati, a public sector employee, considered what happened in Benghazi a repeat of what took place in Tripoli one week earlier.

"There should only be one force, - army and police - otherwise we will have a repeat of the same scenario," teacher Mahassin Bashir said.

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