By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 18 June:
The Tunisian consulate in Benghazi was attacked this evening, Monday, by demonstrators from the Salafist group Ansar Al-Sharia (Soldiers of the Sharia). There were reports of explosions and gunfire.
The Salfists said they had acted because of attacks by Tunisian artists against Islam. It also claimed it had found pictures of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the consulate.
It is reported that the Tunisian flag was ripped down in the attack.
Sources at the Supreme Security Commission have confirmed the incident, saying that “an Islamic group” had attacked the Tunisian consulate. However, it had moved to contain the attack and said that no one had entered the building. It also denied reports that shots were fired. It said no one had been injured, no serious damage was done and that the demonstrators had withdrawn. However, an hour after the statement, at midnight, shots were still being heard in the area. Locals reported that the “security level is very high”.
Last week, one person was killed and over 100 injured in riots across Tunisia after a preacher in the town of Zitouna called on people to kill a number of Tunisian artists whom he said had insulated Islam.
The imam, Sheikh Hocine Labadi, was referring to an exhibition in the Tunis suburb of La Marsa where, among other displays, artists had presented a naked women being eyed by fundamentalists and the word “Allah” spelled out by line of ants. As a result, militants attacked the exhibition as well as police stations, political party offices and government buildings in a number of towns, setting some on fire. In response, other Tunisians took up arms to protect their areas from the Salafists.
The imam has since been banned by Tunisia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs from preaching anywhere in the country for inciting murder.
Ansar Al-Sharia organised an armed rally in Benghazi 11 days ago demanding the full implementation of Sharia law in the country.
There is a similarly named Salafist group in Tunisia.