Magharebia (Washington DC)

13 March 2014

Libya Captures Assassins in Sirte

Sirte — Libyan troops in Sirte captured a gang allegedly responsible for looting, sabotage and high-level assassinations, officials confirmed on Monday (March 11th).

Among the operations allegedly carried out by the hit squad was the assassination of Dr Hassan al-Droui, the industry ministry undersecretary and a former member of the National Transitional Council for the city.

The suspects also stand accused of assassinating Colonel Ramadan al-Tarooq, an official responsible for passports in Sirte.

According to a security source in Sirte who requested anonymity, this group is made up of 30 people and only four of them were arrested. They were transferred to the attorney-general to complete the procedures.

The gang was caught by members of the army's infantry battalion No. 136 on March 6th, according to Libya Herald.

Libyans interviewed by Magharebia were split on the news, with some applauding the security forces while others remained sceptical.

"I hope the news is not just a game in order to ease the anger and indignation of the street," commented Zahra Yasmeen, a 36-year-old lawyer. "I hope that the arrest of such bands is the first drop and the first of a series to be continued in Benghazi, Derna and other areas where security tension is high. Of course the news is thrilling, but there are still 100 question marks."

Fawzi Abu Zeid, a 41-year-old administrator for the Sirte local council, said that "cronies still pose a danger to security in Libya and in Sirte in particular. The roots of Kadhafi are in Sirte and the capture of such a gang will bring stability to the city and end organised crime."

Nargis Ghiryani, a 26-year-old reporter, said she thought the arrests would "send a message to all the followers of the deposed one who practice such acts that no matter what you do, the hand of justice will reach you".

News of the arrests came just days after Sirte residents rallied for more security. A number of people took to the streets March 2nd to demand action, setting tyres on fire and blockading roads.

That protest followed the killing of a militia commander known as Makhlouf bin Nasser. The assassination was the third in the city during February alone. Prior to this, security forces found the bodies of two soldiers belonging to the Libyan army shot in the head 30 kilometres west of Sirte.

"Really, there is no security institution in the city due to the various ideologies on the ground," said Ali Ghemati, a 32-year-old Sirte local council employee. "There is the ideology of Ansar al-Sharia, tribal ideologies, rebels, and militias."

Tahani, a 20-year-old high school student, said, "Libya in general entered a stage of security lapses more than before. I fear it is entering a more dangerous zone, civil war and struggle for power. As for Benghazi, I don't think the situation will abate."

"Force and rigor must be used during this chaos in the country," said Mehdi Redha, a 46-year-old lawyer.

For his part, Mohamed Aerichieh, a 50-year-old member of the General National Congress said that "the government to this moment did not put any strategy of security for the city of Sirte."

"We asked the government repeatedly to provide the necessary means to activate the security forces in Sirte and to reopen the courts' compound and the prosecution offices of the city that are idle since last July, but unfortunately there are no clear responses," said Abdel Fattah Siwi, the 36-year-old head of the Sirte local council.

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