By George Grant.
Tripoli, 5 September:
An armed group has used a fake checkpoint situated between Aziziya and Tripoli to murder at least one man, and possibly three, and reportedly kidnap seven others.
The checkpoint was located at the Zahra Bridge, less than ten kilometres west of Tripoli international airport, and those responsible are said to be from the Warshefana tribe.
On Monday, a Zintani man called Khaled Mohammed Khabashi was stopped at the checkpoint whilst travelling with his mother and shot through the head.
It has also been reported that two other men were murdered at the checkpoint, one from Qalaa and the other from Kabaw, although this has not been independently verified. The Qalaa man was said to have been killed on Monday and the Kabaw man yesterday, Tuesday.
All three towns are situated in the Nafusa Mountains southwest of Tripoli.
The motivation of the attackers remains unclear, but it has also been reported that the men used the checkpoint to temporarily detain seven men from Jadu, also on Monday, allegedly in retaliation for the arrest of a car thief from the Warshefana.
Yesterday evening it was being reported that both the thief and the hostages were released following an agreed exchange and that the assailants from the checkpoint had fled, possibly to Bani Walid.
Under Qaddafi, many prominent members of the security services were drawn from the Wershafana, and the tribe largely supported the regime during last year’s revolution.
The Zintan Local Council has issued a statement condemning the attacks and calling on both the government and the National Congress to take action.
“We deplore and condemn such acts of banditry and the terrorising of innocent people, [and] we urge the government, the National Congress and the Ministries of Interior and Defense to perform their duties in providing and maintaining security as well as providing public safety on the roads and not to allowed any encroachments on unarmed citizens.
“We also call on the Ministry of Interior to intensify their presence in all main gates and check points around the clock and to make sure that the official security personnel use official marked vehicles and wear formal uniforms. All official gates/checkpoints must be announced publically so that all citizens are aware of and trust [in their authenticity].
“We request that the assailants involved in this tragic incident are found and prosecuted; they must brought to justice in order to avoid the same happening again.”
Khalid Al-Zintani, the head of Zintan’s media office, said that this is not the first of its kind to take place in the area, although it is believed to be the first time that murder has occurred.
“Many incidents of abuses, ill-treatment and violations, such as assaults, robbery, kidnapping and confiscation of cars reportedly have taken place in this same spot. The victims were innocent passers-by or unarmed citizens”, he said.
“This time, however, it is a human life that has been lost and not property”.