3 December 2013

Libya: Derna Breaks Its Silence

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

Derna — Four protestors were shot in Derna on Monday (December 2nd) at a rally against the on-going rash of violence in Libya, AFP reported.

The shootings came as citizens demonstrated for a second consecutive day against insecurity and Islamists militias who rule the eastern Libyan town.

Roughly 3,000 people rallied to demand the presence of a legitimate army and the ouster of what they called "the supporters of evil".

According to the spokesperson of a network of civil society organisations in Derna, Baset Abu Dhahab, the protest was in response to calls made by city youths on Facebook "to renounce violence and bombings".

Abu Dhahab said a group calling itself the Abu Bakr as-Sediq Brigade posted warnings threatening anyone who took part in the demonstration or shops that closed down as part of civil disobedience.

"However, young people took to streets to demand the reinstatement of police and army and to demand the government and General National Congress (GNC) activate their role, as there are no signs of the state in town," he noted.

As to a previous announcement by Derna Islamic Army, he said, "In the absence of the state, everyone has their own vision. A small group of outlaws who don't represent our town and who were supplied with vehicles by an unknown entity control the streets."

"When we took to the streets yesterday, it was because we gave the chance to outlaws, former prisoners, extremists and illegal immigrants and everyone else who wanted to do whatever they wanted in town; they have room in the absence of the state," Abu Dhahab continued.

He blamed the appearance of these groups, including Derna Islamic Army and Ansar al-Sharia, on the absence of the state.

"Derna will come back to be a city of culture and civilisation as it was in the past," he said.

In his turn, Mohamed Mesmari, a member of Derna Youth Movement, said citizens' passive attitudes delayed their participation in demonstrations against assassinations, bombings and lack of security.

"The volcano has erupted, and therefore, we marched against Ansar al-Sharia and the former regime's loyalists," he noted.

The latest violence came as Libyan authorities boosted regional co-operation as part of efforts to clamp down on the insecurity.

Last Thursday (November 28th), Libyan defence ministry spokesman Abdul-Razak Chabahi announced an agreement with Sudan to form a force to protect the countries' mutual border, in addition to joint border forces with Egypt and Chad.

He explained that Libyan Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thani also met with the Niger defence minister and discussed border problems.

As for co-operation between Libya and Italy, al-Thani also visited Italy to discuss co-operation for border control via satellite, with the proposed station slated for Tripoli under the command of the defence minister or chief of general staff of the Libyan army.

"Within a short period of time, Libyan borders will be monitored and under full control," al-Thani said.

With regard to the construction of the Libyan army, Chabahi noted, "We are serious and trying hard but we need support and a morale boost."

"The street and people are the ones who asked for the army, the police and that weapons be under the control of the army, because otherwise there will be no achievements, construction or co-operation with the rest of the world," he added.

For her part, Tripoli high school teacher Amal Alsoiei said that the military could "hardly fill the gaps and the police have begun to get out into the streets".

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