Benghazi and Essam Mohamed in Tripoli — Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia on Tuesday (May 27th) lashed out at opponents, threatening to turn the country into a new Syria.
The terror group issued the ominous warning during a press conference called to denounce General Khalifa Haftar's "Operation Dignity".
"We thank God that we were able to defeat Haftar and we challenge him to attempt entering Benghazi again. We warn him that if he continues this war against us, Muslims from across the world will come to fight, as is the case in Syria right now," Libya Herald quoted Ansar al-Sharia leader Mohamed al-Zawahi as saying.
The leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired group went on to label Haftar a "new Kadhafi", AFP reported. "If he insists on this dirty war, it will open the gates of hell on him and the whole region," al-Zawahi said.
The message came as Libya witnesses a wave of violence that many blame on rogue Islamist militias.
On Monday, top Libyan journalist Meftah Bouzid was shot dead in broad daylight in the centre of Benghazi. Bouzid, the editor of Brnieq, was a vocal critic of jihadist groups.
Then on Tuesday, a Libyan student fell victim to the bloodshed. The severed head of a young man was found in the Sabaha mosque in Derna, Libya Herald reported.
According to witnesses, Turkawi had challenged members of the Islamic Army in Derna who had seized his car at a checkpoint.
"Derna is considered a hotbed and a starting point for extremist jihadist fighters, who have benefited from the rugged mountains in the city," explained Salah Mohamed, a 35-year-old computer engineer. "Thus Derna is considered an extension to al-Qaeda and to Islamic fighting groups."
For her part, Derna high school student Hanane Massoun said that Libya had become "a scary country with no security or safety".
"You are at risk whether at home or in the street. This is what we are facing in Derna," she added.
Mardiya Faraj, a 37-year-old teacher, said that Ansar al-Sharia "wants to control people with their ideology while they are doing what they want and not what Allah wants".
"We want the army and the police and not masked young men with arms to scare us," Faraj added.
"The government needs to do something against these armed terrorists," commented Yousef al-Sharif, a government employee from Tripoli. "Things have progressed and they need to do something, not just statements and condemnations, I believe that they have designated Ansar al-Sharia as a terrorist group and they found terrorists in Sirte, Benghazi and Derna but nothing has been done. The people are really worried."
High school teacher Laila Yousef al-Maslati was equally concerned with the violence.
"Terror attacks and the killings have increased and the security situation in Tripoli and Benghazi has become tense," she said.
"We need to build the army and the police and support the security institutions in Libya. And I ask the Libyans to support the state's security and military institutions, we need actions and not just talk," she added.