3 March 2014

Libya: Two Lawmakers Shot in Libya As Protesters Storm Parliament

Photo: Iason Foounten/unmultimedia
A crowd of demonstrators protest the ongoing use of weapons by rebel militias (file photo).

Dozens of protesters have stormed Libya's parliament building, shooting and injuring two lawmakers and wounding several others. The protesters were contesting the interim parliament's decision to extend its mandate.

General National Congress (GNC) spokesman Omar Hmidan told Al-Nabaa television armed activists burst into the building in Tripoli on Sunday and attacked and "abused" lawmakers.

GNC speaker Nuri Abu Sahmein said two GNC members were hit by bullets after they tried to flee the venue in their cars. They were among several who were hospitalized.

Another GNC member said the protesters were mostly young men armed with sticks and knives who entered the building with chants of "Resign, resign."

The GNC, Libya's highest authority, was elected on an interim basis following the 2011 uprising that toppled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Its mandate had been due to expire in February, but was extended until the end of December, sparking considerable public outcry. Parliament has now agreed to hold early elections, but has not yet set a date.

Tensions were raised on Saturday evening after protesters said gunmen broke up a sit-in outside the parliament building. They claimed several activists were detained during the raid, although were unable to give a figure.

They responded by blocking roads to the parliament to demand the release of those held.

Demonstrators say the gunmen belonged to the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, a former rebel group which operates under the GNC's command.

Security concerns

Many Libyans blame the GNC and the interim government for a continued lack of security in the country.

Authorities are struggling to control well-armed Islamist militias and former anti-Gadhafi rebels left in the wake of the uprising.

On Sunday gunmen shot dead a 49-year-old French engineer in the restive eastern city of Benghazi.

No one has claimed responsibility.

The French Foreign Ministry has condemned the killing as "odious and cowardly" and called for its perpetrators to be identified.

The attack took place days after seven Egyptian Christians were found shot dead outside the city, which has become a hotbed of assassinations and bombings.

Most foreign consulates have how closed in Benghazi following the 2012 attack on the US consulate which left the US ambassador and three Americans dead.

ccp/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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