By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 8 September:
Three people have been killed in the latest attempt by militant Salafists to destroy a Sufi shrine, the interior minister has said.
The incident took place yesterday in the town of Rajma, some 35 kilometres from Benghazi, when local residents sought to defend the Sidi Al-Lafi mausoleum from the extremists.
Sources have told the Libya Herald that all three of the dead men were Salafists and that a further seven were injured. Three of those are said to be in a critical condition and are receiving treatment in hospital in Benghazi.
Whereas the security forces did nothing to stop the desecration of three Sufi shrines in Tripoli, Zliten and Misrata, a battalion of the army’s Libya Shield brigade is said to have intervened to stop the fighting, albeit belatedly.
Two of the battalion’s vehicles were reported to have sustained damage, and the house of a local resident was burned down.
This is the first time that Salafists have been challenged and killed in their campaign to eradicate Sufism in Libya.
On 23 August they committed huge damage to the Abdul-Salam Al-Asmar Al-Fituri shrine in Zliten, apparently taking advantage of separate clashes there that had left at least three dead.
On 25 August, another mausoleum, that of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Zarruq, was targeted in nearby Misrata, the same day that the Al-Sha’ab shrine in Tripoli was also hit.
In the latter instance the Salafists returned with an automatic digger to continue the destruction over a period of 48 hours.
The Interior Ministry chose not to intervene in that instance, leading to allegations that extremist elements within the Supreme Security Committee had refused to act.
Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal tendered his resignation on 26 August following intense criticism from the Congress over his handling of the situation, although he reversed this decision two days later on the grounds that it would “further complicate security”.