Benghazi — The alleged arrest of Tunisian fugitive terrorist Abou Iyadh on Monday (December 30th) remains shrouded in mystery.
Tunisia's state news agency reported that Abou Iyadh (real name Seif Allah ben Hassine) had been captured in Misrata by US and Libyan forces.
But American officials were quick to deny any involvement.
"Contrary to media reports, US forces were not involved in any operations involving Ansar al-Sharia leader Abou Iyadh today in Libya. We refer you to the Libyan authorities for any additional questions," the American embassy in Tunis said on its Facebook page.
Amid the conflicting reports, a lawyer for the top Tunisian terrorist told Tunisie Numerique that Abou Iyadh was indeed captured in Misrata, east of the Libyan capital.
Rafik Ghak told the website that the Abou Iyadh folder was officially in the hands of judicial authorities. He added that the arrest was within the scope of three international arrest warrants in addition to three warrants issued by Tunisian authorities.
Misrata officials and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia also denied that the salafist leader was apprehended on Monday.
Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia has been linked to the killing of soldiers in Jebel Chaambi, the assassinations of opposition politicians Chorki Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, as well as attacks on US diplomatic sites.
Meanwhile, Libyans interviewed by Magharebia welcomed news about a possible win for the country's nascent security forces.
Ahmed al-Warfalli, 33, an intelligence officer, said, "I'm very happy with this news, and I appreciate the cleansing of Libya of all the terrorists who wreaked havoc in the country with killings and bombings."
"If their hands were stained with blood, they would deserve punishment," commented Mohamed Bin Saleh, an employee of the Public Services Company.
In his turn, Issa Mohamed El-Eourfi, 65, said, "Due to damages suffered by Benghazi at the hands of Ansar al-Sharia supporters, city residents don't sympathise with this group."
"Most of these groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, are the result of Muslim Brotherhood's ideology," El-Eourfi added. "They pretend to be against terrorism and violence, but in reality, they bless and support such groups. Most of the Libyan people, especially the people of Benghazi, are against these groups and condemn their terrorist acts."
Nazzar Youssef al-Feki, a 32-year-old trader, pointed out that "Benghazi suffered assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and murders at the hands of Ansar al-Sharia. As a Sunni Muslim following the Maliki sect of Islam, I don't approve of such acts that are against law and Islam; Islam has nothing to do with them."
"I bless the arrest of the Tunisian leader of Ansar al-Sharia, and I hope similar operations will take place in other Libyan cities, such as Sabratha, Benghazi and Derna," he added. "I wish the leaders of these groups will be brought to international trials so the world may know the terrorism of these groups and their threats to world peace and security, and that Islam has nothing to do with their acts."
In her turn, Amira Mansour al-Farjani, a teacher at al-Mujahideen Primary School in Benghazi, said that "the terrorists and extremists, who are hiding behind Islam, enjoy killing and torture. However, this is not the moral of our beloved Prophet and is not characteristic of our correct religion, which is a religion of tolerance, mercy and compassion."
"There were repeated assassinations and bombings in Benghazi in the wake of clashes between the Libyan army and Ansar al-Sharia," she said.
"What I now fear most is the violent reaction, including new bombings and assassinations, of that group against poor citizens," the teacher added.